Health and Safety WarningDiscussions are continuing on the development of ISO 45001, which is taking over as the international health and safety standard and replacing OHSAS 18001, adopted as the British Standard in 2007.

The new system is being drawn up at a time when workplace accidents around the world result in more than 2.2 million deaths annually and over 26 million working days are lost in the UK alone because of illnesses and injuries caused by the work environment. There is therefore a worldwide need to develop higher standards for health and safety at work.

The difficulty with OHSAS 18001, which is also referred to as OH&S 18001, is that because it has been adopted by many countries, more than 40 international versions are now in use, meaning there is no one standard of implementation. Over 50 countries are working on ISO 45001, along with ISO and the International Labour Organization, to develop a global standard.

ISO 45001 is not aimed at altering the existing standard dramatically, so there’s nothing to worry about for those who are already using OHSAS 18001. What it will do is introduce standard definitions so that ISO management standards will be much clearer and easier to implement. It will also cut down on the amount of administration involved in using the scheme.

The emerging updated standard will go beyond the workplace and the various health and safety issues that are at risk of arising there and take a much wider view. That means the standard will also apply to a company’s dealings with other firms, such as its suppliers and contractors, and any impacts on surrounding communities must also be considered.

So far, based on the current draft of ISO 45001, more focus is being put on risk management so that there will be fewer incidents in the workplace and beyond, and the system provides for continual assessment to try and ensure this. The draft also calls for a stronger requirement in demonstrating compliance status and its comprehension.

For the many firms around the world that are operating a number of health and safety best practice standards, there’s welcome news with this new development, because it’s understood that compatibility issues between them will be ironed out with ISO 45001’s adoption of the Annex SL structure, which basically provides the foundation for creating any kind of generic management system.

So when can we expect the final draft of ISO 45001 to be unveiled and approved by all the many parties? It had been expected by 2016, but it now looks likely that the final draft won’t make an appearance until the middle of 2016 and that it will be published in October. Given the large number of interested parties, however, ongoing deliberations may naturally result in more changes and therefore delays.

Companies that are currently running OHSAS 18001 are not advised to adopt any of the new draft versions and they should only start to make a transition to ISO 45001 nearer to the time of final publication, which should be around the end of next year.