A new ISO standard for occupational health and safety management that is soon be published promises to act as a comprehensive level of certification for companies, not just in the UK but around the world. The new certification has incorporated contributions from 50 countries and international organisations and proposals are currently going through the ISO approval process before being rolled out internationally. Expected publication date is in October 2016. The new standard has evolved from OHSAS 18001 – one of the most widely recognised workplace safety standards around the world. This British-led certification was introduced in 1999 and by 2005 had been used by approximately 16,000 organisations in more than 80 countries.
The new standard will be entitled ISO 45001 and from information released so far it appears to take a much broader view of an organisation’s responsibility for creating safe working environments than its predecessor. The new certification will look beyond the health and safety of employees in the immediate workplace and consider the impact of the organisation on other stakeholders, such as contractors and suppliers. Moreover, the new ISO standard may also take into consideration how the work of a company affects non-commercial stakeholders like local communities. For some industries, like the construction industry where subcontractors are common the new standard will represent something of a sea change in its scope.
In another change the certification body will also place greater responsibility on senior management for driving health and safety systems management. While the details of this are still being worked out in committee it will almost certainly mean a requirement for health and safety to be integrated as a key part of organisational strategy.
Having effective health and safety systems in place can benefit a company greatly in a number of ways, including reducing the number and frequency of accidents and as a consequence, the level of employee absence. Strong, effective systems can also help a company avoid criminal or civil prosecutions for more serious failings, while also having a positive effect on the morale of employees, who see that their employer is taking an interest in their welfare.
Some of the statistics relating to health and safety issues should make employers sit up and take note. According to figures by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) there were 133 workers killed at work in 2013-14. Additionally, there were 175,000 incidents where workers were hurt badly enough to warrant being away from work for more than 7 days. The cost of injuries has been estimated at 27 million working days (2011-12) and £13.8 billion (2012-11). Last year HSE prosecuted 597 cases and secured an extremely high conviction rate (95 per cent). Fines for duty holders found guilty of offences averaged£15,153 per offence.
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