Thought Leadership

Is an ISO Occupational Health and Safety Management standard on the way?

February 12, 2013
Posted by Thea Dunmire on January 16, 2013 on the OHSAS 18001 Expert blog

I have gotten the following question for several readers –

I hear there is an initiative to develop an ISO safety and health management standard.  Will ANSI Z10 be a key input in developing an ISO OHSMS standard?

The short answer is – “I don’t know.”

The longer answer is much more complex and requires delving into the processes – and politics – of international standard development.

It is my understanding that the British Standards Institute (BSI) is seriously considering submitting a proposal to ISO for the development of occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) standards.

This is not as straightforward as it seems, nor does it mean that an ISO OHSMS specification standard, like OHSAS 18001, is a foregone conclusion.

First, ISO does not write standards.  ISO has processes in place to establish technical committees (commonly referred to as “TCs”) that are authorized to develop standards within a pre-defined scope. 

Although this sounds like a technical nuance, it is not.

Currently, there is no ISO technical committee authorized to develop OHSMS standards.

This means, before an ISO OHSMS standard can be developed, a new TC must be established.  The establishment of a new TC requires the majority approval of the ISO member bodies (i.e. the national standard development bodies from the member countries).  ISO procedures set out how this approval is to be achieved, as well as the requirements for setting up a new TC.

Those of you who are familiar with the history of OHSMS standards will probably remember that establishing such a TC has been rejected before (in 1996, 2000 and 2007).

 Second, TCs are not authorized to develop whatever standards they want.  Each proposed standard must be approved through a New Work Item Proposal process (commonly referred to as a NWIP). 

Again, the majority of the member bodies must approve the proposal.  In addition, for management system standards there are additional requirements that must be met – including the completion of a justification study.

Once a OHSMS Technical Committee is approved – if it is – and once a NWIP is approved for a specification standard – if it is – THEN work can start on a standard that would replace OHSAS 18001.

It is important to note that any new ISO management system standard MUST be developed in accordance with the ISO/IEC directives – specifically Annex SL.

This means that much of the language in any ISO OHSMS standard would be predetermined – including the high-level structure, core definitions as well as much of the actual text. 

Check out my prior post for more information on what this means.

So getting back to the original question –

I hear there is an initiative to develop an ISO safety and health management standard.  Will ANSI Z10 be a key input in developing an ISO OHSMS standard?

There is likely to be a proposal to establish a new ISO OHSMS Technical Committee.  It is not clear whether this proposal will be approved and nor whether a NWIP will be approved to develop an OHSMS specification standard.  Although one can assume that if a new OHSMS TC is approved, the NWIP for an OHSMS specification standard would be approved.

If the necessary approvals are obtained and the standard development process does go forward, ANSI Z10 would likely be one of the documents that would be considered in developing an ISO OHSMS standard. 

It is, however, unlikely to be a “key input” – too much of the language of any ISO OHSMS specification standard is already pre-determined by Annex SL.

For more information about my company and services, visit ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc.

© ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc. (2013)

Reprinted with permission of author.

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