IAF Extends Deadline for Businesses to Migrate to ISO 45001

Due to widespread business impacts from the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) has extended the deadline for migration to ISO 45001 by six months from the original timeline, to September 11, 2021.

The current international standard for occupational health and safety (OHS) management systems, ISO 45001, was published in Spring 2018 and organizations initially had 3 years to migrate their certification to 45001 from the previous standard, OHSAS 18001. This migration period would originally have ended on March 11, 2021 prior to the extension.

Now is a good time to do a brief review of ISO 45001 before taking a closer look at the details of IAF’s recent decision, and the options businesses now can use when migrating to ISO 45001, including remote options.

What is ISO 45001?

ISO 45001 is a standard for Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) developed by the International Organization for Standardization. It draws on elements of other OHS guidelines such as the International Labour Organization’s ILO-OSH Guidelines and OHSAS 18001, a standard published by the British Standards Institute (BSI) that was widely accepted as the benchmark for OHS management systems. ISO 45001 goes beyond these other standards by introducing specific emphasis on employee engagement and a robust, pro-active EHS culture as essential elements to achieving workplace health and safety excellence.

Some of the key requirements for OHS management systems under ISO 45001 include:

Context of the Organization: A persistent historical problem has been that safety management systems have stood apart from everything else companies did, and was solely the responsibility of corporate EHS management. This siloed structure ultimately contributed to poor safety performance. That’s why ISO 45001 stresses that a company must determine its “context” by looking at the “external and internal issues that….affect its ability to achieve the intended outcome(s)” of its OHS management system. Safety can’t reside in a separate silo any longer – it depends on participation from all levels and functions of the organization.

Employee Engagement: One thing that logically follows from this more integrated view of the role of safety within an organization is that all workers need to be involved. That’s why Section 5.3 of the Standard emphasizes the importance of consulting workers at all levels and functions, including non-managerial workers, temporary workers, and contracted workers under the supervision of the employer. Safety meetings are one way to promote engagement, and to coordinate the activities needed to support your OHS management system.

Hazard Analysis & Risk Analysis: The authors of the standard recognize that the best way to boost safety performance is to eliminate hazards, control their associated risks, and adopt a mindset of continuous improvement. Success here depends on the ability to easily conduct hazard studies and other risk assessments such as job safety analyses (JSAs) and aspects & impacts analysis with thorough participation from workers, and to make hazard study findings readily accessible to our workforce.

Incident Management: The standard defines an “incident” as “an occurrence arising out of, or in the course of, work that could or does result in injury and ill health.” The notes to the definition clarify this by stating that “an incident where no injury and ill health occurs, but has the potential to do so, may be referred to as a ‘near-miss, ‘near-hit,’ or ‘close call.’” Since all of these count as “incidents,” we should not compartmentalize our approach to reporting and investigating them. Having a single system that allows you to capture all workplace incidents from anywhere through the use of mobile devices can give you the responsiveness and flexibility you need to document detailed incident data at the scene, and quickly reference that data during investigation and root cause analysis.

Management of Change (MOC): Section 8.1.3 of the standard prompts the organization to “establish a process/processes for the implementation and control of both temporary and permanent changes that impact OH&S performance.” This process should address not only changes to operations, but also changes to workplace conditions, personnel and the organization itself, to the degree that such changes can impact safety. This could include changes such as planned staff cuts that would reduce the number of workers available to perform a certain process, potentially introduce new risks that must be assessed and controlled. MOC, even for seemingly simple changes can be a challenge, especially if you’re attempting to manage them using spreadsheets or paper systems. Modern, purpose-built MOC software systems make it much easier to apply MOC processes when and where they’re needed, inform and notify the right people throughout each step of the change process, and maintain a complete audit trail of all workflows and approvals to promote greater transparency and accountability for MOC processes.

Emergency Planning: All too often, businesses treat emergency planning the way many of us treat our holiday decorations. About once a year we dust them off, check to make sure they still work, put them to use, then stow them away again and go on with our “normal” operations. Problem is, while they’re not in use things can become outdated and no longer function.The developers of ISO 45001 know that companies need more frequent and active engagement with their emergency plans to ensure their effectiveness. It requires periodic tests and drills, training for all affected employees, and communication of relevant information with relevant parties, including the local fire department, who need to have accurate and complete information about chemicals stored at your establishment.

Training: Sections on “Competence” (7.2), “Awareness” (7.3) and “Communication” (7.4) sections of ISO 45001 address training management. Notably, the ISO 45001 specifically states that employers must ensure worker competence, including the ability to identify hazards, and that employees must be made aware of the OH&S policy and its objectives. They must also understand the hazards associated with their job tasks, and their own roles in the safety management system. And of course, you need to be able to easily assign and track training to manage it effectively.

The bottom line is that unlike previous standards for health and safety, ISO 45001 takes a much more holistic view of OHS performance, stressing that an organization must consider all of the internal and external factors affecting its safety performance, and must involve employees at all levels in decision-making. ISO 45001 represents current best practices for OHS management as recognized by experts around the world.

What is Happening Now?

Many organizations have already certified to ISO 45001, including some who’d migrated their safety management system to 45001 from OHSAS 18001. Many others are at different places in their pursuit of an ISO 45001 certification, and may have been working toward the original due date of March 11, 2021 to migrate from OHSAS 18001.

The good news is that the IAF, the organization that manages global oversight of accreditation, has extended the deadline for migration to September 11, 2021 due to business disruptions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. That means that existing OHSAS 18001 certificates can be extended until that date as organizations move their certification to ISO 45001.

Additionally, in recognition of continuing social distancing measures to reduce the spread of SARS CoV-2 and COVID-19, the IAF has also revised the methodology through which accrediting organizations may conduct certification audits. Those organizations may now conduct migration audits 100% remotely, although they may also use physical audits where possible based on social distancing guidelines and government requirements.

Organizations should take advantage of this extension to further improve their OHS management systems, and fill in any gaps that may exist. Pay special attention to barriers that may be preventing non-managerial level employees from participating in your OHS management system.

In future blog posts, we’ll talk more about ways that organizations can use ISO 45001 as a framework for improving their OHS management systems, whether or not they actually plan on formally certifying to ISO 45001.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for more information about ISO 45001, please check out our on-demand webinars:

All About ISO 45001: Understanding the New Standard and What It Means for You

Managing Your Workplace Ergonomics Program Using ISO 45001

Let VelocityEHS Help!

Employers interested in pursuing an ISO 45001 certification or modeling their OHS management system on the standard will have an easier time if they have the right tools in place. Our single-point EHS management software platform is a good fit for your needs.

VelocityEHS Incident Management software makes it easy to report incidents, close calls and hazards, and our Risk Analysis software gives you versatile tools for assessing and prioritizing hazards and risks across your organization, while making risk information more accessible to your workforce.

A key aspect of an OHS management system as described by ISO 45001 is being pro-active, and making sure you’re actually doing the things your safety policies say you do. You need to do frequent inspections of your operations, as well as internal audits of your OHS management system itself. Luckily, our Audit & Inspection software makes these tasks simple and intuitive. Additionally, our Management of Change solution helps you ensure that no changes to your systems and processes occur without going through proper risk assessment and approval.

If you need an easy way to plan and manage your safety committee or other workplace safety team meetings, our Safety Meetings solution has you covered, as well.

Best of all, our solution is designed to work as an integrated platform, accessible from anywhere via the cloud, so you’ll have the visibility and engagement from your entire workforce that so essential to ISO 45001 compliance and a high-performance OHS program.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!