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Transitioning to ISO 45001: Elevating Workplace Safety



In a significant move, the New Zealand government has recently replaced the local health and safety standard AS/NZS 4801 with the internationally recognized AS/NZS ISO 45001:2018. This shift underscores a commitment to ensuring robust occupational health and safety management systems across various industries. But what exactly does it take to achieve certification under this new standard, and what benefits does it offer? Let's delve deeper into the realm of ISO 45001.


Understanding ISO 45001

ISO 45001 stands as the inaugural globally accepted standard for occupational health and safety management systems. Acting as a framework, it enables organizations of all sizes and sectors to effectively manage risks and foster a safe working environment for their employees. The standard's structure, comprising 10 clauses, is designed to be universally applicable.


Introduced in 2018 after extensive consultations and reviews with expert bodies, ISO 45001 replaces previous standards such as OHSAS 18001, marking a significant evolution in safety management practices. Notably, its structure aligns with other renowned ISO standards like ISO 9001 for quality management systems and ISO 14001 for environmental management systems. Moreover, the standard has been complemented by additional guidelines such as ISO 45002 and ISO 45003, catering to specific organizational needs and focusing on aspects like implementation in smaller entities and addressing psychosocial risks.


The Essence of ISO 45001

ISO 45001 represents a departure from its predecessors in several key aspects:


  1. Risk-based Approach: Unlike its predecessors that primarily focused on hazard control, ISO 45001 adopts a proactive risk-based approach to safety management.

  2. Emphasis on Leadership and Participation: The standard places a heightened emphasis on the involvement of leadership and active participation from employees, recognizing their pivotal roles in ensuring a safe workplace.

  3. Alignment with ISO Framework: By following the structure of other ISO management systems, ISO 45001 facilitates smoother implementation and integration with existing organizational processes.

Navigating the Clauses of ISO 45001

The core of ISO 45001 lies in its 10 clauses, with particular attention drawn to Clauses 4 to 10, which constitute the operational essence of the standard:


  1. Clause 4: Context of the Organization: This section mandates an understanding of internal and external factors influencing the organization's ability to meet safety objectives, outlining needs, expectations, and defining the scope of the health and safety management system.

  2. Clause 5: Leadership and Worker Participation: It underscores the importance of leadership commitment, establishment of OH&S policies, clarification of roles and responsibilities, and fostering consultation and participation among workers.

  3. Clause 6: Planning: This clause necessitates actions to address risks and opportunities, setting measurable objectives consistent with the OH&S policy, and incorporating feedback from employees.

  4. Clause 7: Support: Focuses on providing necessary resources, ensuring competence, raising awareness, facilitating effective communication, and managing documented information.

  5. Clause 8: Operation: Operationalizes safety measures through planning and control mechanisms, with a particular focus on emergency preparedness and response.

  6. Clause 9: Performance Evaluation: Validates and enhances organizational performance through monitoring, internal audits, and management reviews.

  7. Clause 10: Improvement: Encourages continual improvement by identifying opportunities, addressing incidents and nonconformities, and fostering a culture of ongoing enhancement.

Embracing ISO 45001: A Path to Excellence

While achieving ISO 45001 certification is not mandatory, it serves as a compelling testament to an organization's unwavering commitment to workplace safety. With nearly 300,000 organizations worldwide already certified, the impact of ISO 45001 reverberates across global business landscapes, transcending mere compliance to embody a culture of safety excellence.


In essence, ISO 45001 offers organizations the tools to adhere to the highest global safety standards, fostering a safer, healthier, and more productive work environment. As the world increasingly prioritizes social responsibility in work practices, ISO 45001 certification emerges as a beacon of assurance, signaling an organization's dedication to the well-being of its workforce.


For a small business, being audited and certified to an ISO 45001 level may not be financially viable. But that doesn't mean that your health & safety system can't meet the standards requirements anyway. Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015, the employer has a duty to ensure a safe workplace.


Give HR plus a call to find out how we can help you protect yourself and your workers.

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