by Tom Barham
A key component of any management system is the policy—a high-level document that should be used to guide the organization in its operation so it meets and exceed its goals.
Some elements of a policy are the same across all disciplines—they should always reflect the individual organization, communicated and documented, and include a commitment to continual improvement. Other requirements will vary. A quality policy should include a commitment to meet and exceed customer expectations. An environmental policy should include a commitment to prevent pollution, and an OHS policy should include a commitment to eliminate work-related illness and injury… or should it?
With ISO 45001 just around the corner, let’s have a look at the new policy requirements in detail.
Previously, both AS/NZS 4801:2001 and OHSAS 18001:2007 prescribed similar requirements for their OHS policies. Each had to provide the framework for setting and reviewing objectives and include commitments to fulfil an organization’s legal and other requirements, as well as either minimize or eliminate work-related illness and injury. In some respects, ISO 45001’s policy requirements are very familiar. It still has to be documented, communicated and available, include a commitment to satisfy applicable legal and other requirements, and set the framework for the organization’s objectives. The commitment to either eliminate or minimize work-related illness and injury is maintained too, though slightly reworded and refocused. However, one change that is coming relates to two new commitments that are required. The first is a commitment to eliminate hazards—in a previous draft this commitment was to the use of the hierarchy of control when controlling OHS risks—the other is to include a commitment to consult and include the participation of workers, and where they exist, workers’ representatives.
In Australia, workers’ consultation and participation and the elimination of hazards are both items that we do well, and have done well for a while, so the inclusion of these commitments in the policy may seem a little odd. One thing to remember, though, is that this is our first truly international OHS standard, so these inclusions may well be quite a surprise for some of our overseas friends. Australia is lucky to have the health and safety legislation that we have, and we need to remember that not everyone has done safety as well as us for as long as we have. The use of the hierarchy of control and consultation with the workforce will be new concepts for some organizations around the globe.
ISO 45001’s new wording relating to the minimization/elimination of work-related illness and injury is as follows:
“Top management shall establish, implement, and maintain an OH&S policy that includes a commitment to provide safe and healthy working conditions for the prevention of work-related injury and/or ill health and is appropriate to the purpose, the size and context of the organization, and to the specific nature of its OH&S risks and OH&S opportunities.”
Through this, you can see that there will be a large focus on ensuring that an organization’s policy is suitable and tailored. Gone are the days when someone in an organization could do a quick Google search, then substitute their name on another company’s policy and adopt it word for word. Additionally, in lieu of the specific commitment to eliminate (AS/NZS 4801) or minimize (OHSAS 18001) work-related illness and injury, ISO 45001 will require a commitment to provide safe and healthy working conditions—a broader and more realistic aim for a lot of organizations.
Provided that your current policy is reflective of your own organization’s needs, there shouldn’t be too much that you’ll have to change upon the release of ISO 45001. You may just need to add some commitments to things that you’re already required to do. If, however, your current OHS policy does not reflect your own needs, you’ve got a long way to go—and arguably shouldn’t have been certified to begin with.
This article is based on the current draft of ISO 45001, ISO/DIS 45001.2:2017. The draft is subject to change at any time prior to its formal release as an International Standard, currently expected in February of 2018.
About the author
Tom Barham is a manager at PwC Australia, leading PwC’s Auditor Training & Certification training development. As an Exemplar Global-certified lead auditor, Barham delivers OHS internal audits for one of Australia’s largest motoring bodies, with a focus on simplifying safety approaches in organizations to ensure their effectiveness.
For more information about PwC’s Auditor Training & Certification, and to find out how they can help your organization deliver an integrated audit approach, visit auditortraining.pwc.com.au.