ISO45001: Ideal for Contractors Looking to Boost OH&S

19 March 2019

How’s your safety record? Is it as good as you say it is it in your marketing materials? Many contractors say they have outstanding safety in their marketing materials only to fall far short in reality. That trend seems to hold true for the industry.

Construction’s occupational health and safety (OH&S) record is less than stellar. In fact, its ill health, stress, and injury statistics are among the highest of all industry sectors. According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics for 2016/2017:

  • 80,000 workers suffer from work-related injuries each year (LFS)
  • 30 fatal injuries occurred in 2016/2017
  • 64,000 non-fatal injuries to workers occurred in 2016/2017

Obviously, Construction has a way to go when it comes to OH&S. But if you’re a contractor looking to boost onsite OH&S, you now have a powerful new tool to combat today’s tough safety challenges: ISO 45001.

Below we cover what ISO 45001 is, its benefits, how it differs from other standards, and how it impacts contractors. We also cover recommended actions for contractors migrating from ISO 18001.

ISO 45001

What is ISO 45001:2018?  

ISO 45001 is already the most widely recognized standard for managing occupational health and safety. It replaces OHSAS 18001—whose certification remains valid until March 2021. Released in March 2018, ISO 45001 provides a new framework that helps companies achieve continuous improvement in managing occupational health and safety, identifying risks, and reducing hazards.

Here’s the ISO’s formal description of this standard as posted on the ANSI website:

ISO 45001 is an International Standard that specifies requirements for an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system, with guidance for its use, to enable an organisation to proactively improve its OH&S performance in preventing injury and ill-health.

ISO 45001 is similar to ISO 18001. Unlike that standard, however, ISO 45001 links health and safety to business strategy. It also focuses more on workers and their interactions onsite. Designed to integrate with ISO 9001, ISO 45001 reduces:

  • Overall costs of worksite incidents
  • Downtime and the costs of disruptions
  • Costs of insurance premiums
  • Absenteeism and turnover rates

In addition, ISO 45001 pumps up a company’s ability to respond to compliance issues. Plus, it provides widespread recognition for achieving a critical international health and safety benchmark.

ISO 45001 applies to any company that wants to create, implement, and maintain an effective OH&S management system—regardless of the organization’s size, type, and activity. ISO 45001 certification lasts for three years and requires mandatory audits yearly to make sure you’re compliant. After three years, companies must complete a reassessment audit to become re-certified to the standard.

ISO 45001

Difference Between ISO 45001 and OSHAS 18001

These two standards are similar but different. Both use a structured approach to boosting OH&S. Both focus on identifying, assessing, and controlling worksite risks. And both emphasize continuous improvement through risk reduction. But ISO 45001 differs from OHSAS 18001 in one key area: It employs the same high-level structure as other international standards do, including ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

ISO 45001 helps companies manage safety by requiring them to view risk reduction as a business process instead of as a traditional standard. The standard also helps executives manage risk through opportunity management—all while emphasizing a company’s role of leadership and management and the need for continuous improvement.

Since ISO 45001 features the same high-level structure as other standards, it’s easy to integrate with existing management systems. If you’re OHSAS 18001 certified, you’ll need to migrate to ISO 45001 to remain certified. Obstacles to doing that often come from managers not understanding the standard’s actual purpose: ISO 45001 is ideal for companies sincerely interested in boosting safety at their worksites.

ISO 45001: Tailor-Made for Construction Industry

ISO 45001 is tailor-made for the construction industry. It aligns core requirements with ISO 9001, simplifies implementation, boosts holistic safety management, and mirrors aspects of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015). In addition, ISO 45001 is scalable to cover many combinations of multiple contractors at a single site and applies equally to large organizations and SMEs.   

A significant benefit of ISO 45001 is that it emphasizes the role primary contractors play in boosting onsite occupational health and safety. Contractors can’t control everything onsite, but that doesn’t let them off the hook.

The standard also emphasizes the importance of worker participation—including both contractors and direct employees—in the continuous improvements process. Their involvement in making OH&S decisions is critical to hazard identification and risk management.

ISO 45001

Credibility an Overlooked Benefit

One overlooked benefit of ISO 45001 certification is the credibility that comes with attaining it. When you’re ISO 45001-compliant, you prove to everyone—customers, subcontractors, regulators, societal stakeholders—that you’re serious about safety. That’s often a significant commercial advantage of undergoing ISO 45001 training and achieving certification.

Savvy contractors are making technology tools like GoContractor’s software solution a crucial part of their arsenal when seeking ISO 45001 certification. The reason: The right technology not only helps simplify the management effort but also boosts control over the process.

GoContractor, for example, helps companies increase onsite health and safety thanks to its ability to streamline contractor management, creating safer workplaces, and reducing onsite mishaps—all while boosting efficiency and productivity.

Migrating from ISO 18001 to ISO 45001

The OHSAS family includes two standards. ISO 18001 focuses on an OHS management system and ISO 18002 covers implementation guidelines. Statistics show that about 92,000 organizations in 127 countries implemented the standard. These companies will all have to migrate to remain certified.

Below are several recommendations PECB makes to those companies migrating from ISO 18001 to ISO 45001. PECB is a certification body for a wide range of international standards. It also provides ISO 45001 training:    

  • Identify organizational gaps you need to address to meet the requirements 
  • Develop an implementation plan specific to your organization
  • Provide appropriate training for the appropriate parties that impact your organization’s effectiveness
  • Update your company’s OH&S standards to meet the revised requirements, then verify effectiveness
  • Liaise with your certification body for transition arrangements where necessary

ISO 45001

ISO 45001: The Bottom Line.

Implementing this is a must for today’s contractors. It provides company and commercial benefits that boost safety and increase profitability. But the new standard doesn’t improve OH&S alone. It takes training and hard work if you’re new to OH&S certification.  

If you’re a contractor looking to migrate to ISO 45001, on the other hand, you’ll need to implement an on-target action plan to make the transition. The plan should include technology tools like GoContractor’s software solution to help enhance safety training and smooth the transition.

Make the transition to ISO 45001 and you’ll enjoy all the benefits that come with improving onsite OH&S. Plus, it helps you win more jobs, enhances efficiency, and increases your productivity—all protecting your best asset: your workers. It’s how everyone goes home safe at night.

Jenny Snook
Jenny Snook

Jenny Snook is content executive at GoContractor with the job of researching the latest health and safety trends in the heavy industry. Her past-experience includes the research of large museum collections such as the Louth County Museum, many from the industrial age.

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