ISO 45001 Certified vs. Sensible: A Pragmatic Approach
ISO 45001 is finally out after over four years of development, but how realistically can OHS professionals meet it?   The standard is a framework for managing OHS risks and opportunities. For instance, it takes other International Standards into account, including: OHSAS 18001, the International Labour Organization's ILO-OSH Guidelines, various national standards, and the ILO's international labour standards and conventions.   In other words, the combination of common elements in ISO’s management systems standards  is applicable to every organization. Click here for the ultimate guide to EHS software ISO 45001 is an integration of EHS management with the organization's overall processes, goals and objectives. To clarify, an organization’s management system should integrate the OHS policies into their daily operation and culture. For example, set processes and documentation for recording occupational injuries and illnesses (in line with the OSH Act in the US).

Is ISO 45001 holistic?

Like any policy, top management is responsible for clearly planning and implementing the business's processes. As  6 ‘Planning’ states, OHS objectives and plans should be: policy consistent, accountable for legal requirements, measurable, monitored, communicated and up to date. However, worker participation is at the core. Every staff member is an integral part of the management system and health and safety is everyone’s role. In other words, ISO 45001 takes a holistic perspective of EHS, allowing incorporation of the management processes. Compared to the previous standard, ISO 45001 takes a proactive approach to risk control. It emphasizes deficiency correction and focuses on improvement. According to David Smith, Chair of the Project Committee:
The approach is risk-based Plan, Do, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) and is focused on minimising the risk of harm in the workplace.

Does your OHS management system need to be ISO 45001 certified?

The short answer? No. The long answer? You might not use the software the same way a credited vendor was assessed.

Assessing OHS software within its context

Firstly, examine your current system before implementing a new one. Every organization uses OHS systems differently. So rather than mandating certain functions, the standard concerns a software system's functionality and its ability to adapt. Any kind of system can comply with the standard's requirements, provided it is effective and appropriate. However, certification is useful for credibility. It demonstrates that your product or service meets customer expectations. In some industries, certification is a legal or contractual requirement.

OHS software as a piece of the puzzle

In short, software is key for ISO certification. However, other factors come into play: staff engagement in process change, commitment from senior management, evidence of this commitment, assignment of role responsibilities.

The role of your software

On the other hand, software does not manage the full picture. ISO 45001 takes a holistic approach by engaging staff, leadership and culture. Don't worry, there's no detailed specification to adhere. For example, if you use the Fishbone method there's no need to swap to 5 Whys. ISO 45001 brings ramifications for all software systems. Here are three elements to consider:

 1. Is your OHS software flexible?

Configurability is the number one buyer criteria in OHS software. Most importantly, ISO 45001 states your application must be flexible to make improving safety easier. This means being able to amend workflows, add or edit fields and drop-down lists, and change parameters. That is to say, be wary of software vendors relying on standard reports. Business Intelligence (BI), has had a transformational change in making self -service reporting a reality. Pro-Sapien client LBC TT, uses Excel Services to deliver OHS performance reports. LBC has full control of their data. The OHS department amends reports when required. Reputable vendors provide tailored Business Intelligence and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

2. Are you engaging your staff in the process?

Above all, staff engagement is key for changes. Pro-Sapien makes our software meaningful, and every deployment comes with an initial specification workshop. Staff are the best people to consult in the future success of health and safety strategies.

3. Is your software and your vendor supportive of continuous improvement?

Continuous improvement is crucial. For example, training records management, staff accreditation, completion of follow-up actions. Make sure your vendor supports this. Pro-Sapien customers are not limited to support and maintenance of the current solution; you can request the future, inevitable amendments.

Three points to consider

To sum up, businesses should consider accreditation benefits. If you want to work with organizations requiring the standard or you want to use the framework without the expensive certification process, examine your current OHS system to discover the tools available to you. Consider the following:
  • Configurability: your software must be flexible to meet your specific functional needs.
  • User engagement: determine what system fits your organization.
  • Support and service: your software and vendor must facilitate continuous improvement.
Your software does not need to be ISO 45001 certified, but the reverse is also true; if the software is certified before you buy it, it does not automatically mean are operating to the standard. Crucially, ISO 45001 do not end with your software. Make sure your OHS management software is flexible, easy to use, and supportive of performance improvements, and you're on the realistic path.

EHS Management Software:
The Ultimate Guide 10-Part Guide

Get guide »

Murray is the Commercial Director at Pro-Sapien Software and has been involved in providing business intelligence IT solutions to some of the world's largest companies for over 15 years. He is particularly interested in using modern technologies for improvements in EHS performances, striving to support business processes and promote safety best practice in high-risk industries.