Date adopted: March 15, 2018

The more than 100,000 organizations already compliant with OHSAS 18001 – the British forerunner to 45001 – might want to make the transition to 45001, since 18001 certification will stop in March 2021.

Back story

Publication of ISO 45001 comes approximately four years after the drafting process began – and around two years longer than it typically takes to draw up a new management standard. The proposal for a global occupational health and safety management standard was originally proposed in the mid-1990s. ISO 45001 draws on OHSAS 18001 – the former global benchmark for OHS – but it is a new and distinct standard, not a revision or update.  45001 is due to be phased in gradually over the next three years.

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization, the world’s largest nongovernmental developer of standards, working with a network of the national standards institutes of more than 140 countries.


  • 45001 is a strictly voluntary standard. It applies to any organization wanting to establish, implement and maintain an OHS management system to raise the performance level of occupational health and safety, eliminate hazards and minimize OHS risks (including system deficiencies), seize OHS opportunities, and confront OHS management system nonconformities associated with its activities. 
  • 45001 helps an organization of any size achieve the intended results of its OHS management system — consistent with the organization's OHS policy.
  •  Intended objectives include:
  1. Continual improvement of OHS performance;
  2. Compliance with legal requirements and other internal/external requirements;
  3. Achieving fulfillment of OHS execution and capacity. 
  • 45001 applies to any organization regardless size, type and activities. It applies to OHS risks under the organization's control. Importantly, the standard takes into account factors such as the context in which the organization operates and the needs and expectations of its workers and other related parties. 
  • 45001 does not specify criteria for OHS performance. It is not prescriptive about the design of an OHS management system. The standard enables an organization, via its OHS management system, to integrate other aspects of health and safety, such as worker wellness/wellbeing. 
  • 45001 does not address issues such as product safety, property damage or environmental impacts — beyond risks to workers and other relevant stakeholders. 
  • The standard can be used wholly or partially to systematically improve occupational health and safety management. Claims of conformity are not acceptable unless all its requirements are incorporated into an organization's management system and fulfilled without exception.

Benefits/The business case

  • The global standard offers a framework that enables companies to increase employee safety, reduce workplace risks and improve business outcomes. The practical solutions for worker safety in ISO 45001 can be used within global supply chains in all industries, applying to contractors and subcontractors in every country.
  • A key provision covers worker participation. Superior participation and consultation leads to increased engagement, mitigated risk, and excellent OHS outcomes.
  • ISO 45001 aligns health and safety in a form that integrates with other management systems used in more than one million organizations.  This convergence can provide significant cost savings through improved health and safety performance and the elimination of waste and duplication through standardization and cooperation between departments.  
  • The business advantages of being ISO 45001-compliant create a pathway through trade barriers. A global standard that enforces compliance on supply chains through certification guarantees international acceptance within all sectors of commerce.  Reputational advantages and benchmarking competitiveness follow. This type of Integrated Management System (IMS) unites top management with a common mission and eases compliance with other IMS such as ISO Quality 9001, ISO Environment 14001 and ISO Security 27001. 
  • Numerous clients or customers are predicted to eventually require compliance to 45001, either as part of their existing supply chain or to tender for new contracts.

Key provisions

  • Context of the organization
  • 45001 takes a risk-based approach to the OHS management system, ensuring it is effective and being continually improved to meet an organization’s ever-changing “context” or shifting internal and external business conditions, risks, opportunities, legal requirements, etc. – much like the weather.

Leadership and worker participation

Senior management must demonstrate “leadership” on health and safety. Senior leaders will have to take more responsibility in the standard. Auditors must possess the skills to see if top managers are delivering, and how leaders demonstrate they are delivering.

Senior leaders must also communicate using a clear and time-sensitive method.

Who should be consulted before making polices, rules and regulations?

  1. Employees including leaders, managers, operatives – all employees of an organization
  2. Shareholders and partners
  3. Unions and representatives of unions
  4. Stakeholders including contractors, partners, suppliers, and local focus or community groups.

How is this requirement satisfied?

  1. Ensure participation and consultation is considered when setting up the OHS system and policies, and ensure that time, resources, and information about the OHS are available and all barriers are reasonably removed.
  2. Ensure that special attention is given and consultation is taken by non-managerial workers when it comes to hazard identification; control actions, training needs, incident investigation, and communication.
  3. Ensure that non-managerial consultation and participation is also sought in terms of writing the OHS Policy, identifying interested parties, assigning roles and responsibilities and identifying legal requirements, establishing objectives and controls required to achieve them, assessing the evaluation and analysis that must take place as a result, and managing and scheduling an audit process.

A representative team or forum within an organization can best meet this requirement. The day-to-day OHS administrator, a member of top management, the OHS senior manager, an employee representative, and union members can form a health and safety team. This team brings different perspectives, and also can communicate suggestions from respective departments to the team. A channel of communication and information is created vertically and horizontally within a firm; every idea, suggestion, and piece of information regarding hazard and risk can be identified at all levels, at the earliest opportunity.

Compliance assistance

Experts say 45001 is not easy to apprehend when read as a normal book, especially if you are not familiar with the ISO framework of 9001 and 18001. You have to realize the interconnections between specific clauses. Experts advise finding a good training course to help realize the standard’s full potential. You may also want to consider employing consultancy services to assist.

45001 has been drafted with small and medium-size enterprises (SME) in mind. SMEs with few risks will find compliance less difficult and costly than multinationals with many sites and risks. The standard is flexible, with less onus on documentation and detailed procedures. SMEs will find the 45002 guidance document particularly helpful.  There is also a growing number of 45001-related websites, webinars, gap analysis tools and document templates.


Demand is likely to be high among holders of the two existing management standards aligned to ISO 45001, suggested Chris Ward, a health and safety consultant and leading 45001 international authority, in a blog About one million businesses are holders of quality management standard ISO 9001, and approximately 300,000 hold environmental standard ISO 14001.

There is no requirement to certify to any ISO management system standard. Certification is merely an added endorsement that demonstrates to external parties that you have achieved full compliance with a specific standard.

Said Ward, “There will be a lot more trickle-down and cascading; larger companies will want their supply chain to conform.”  Smaller companies might find themselves under commercial pressure to adopt the standard.