ISO 45001 – (The Draft) What is Australia scared of?

Over recent months, you may have heard a number of Safety Professional referring to or discussing “The Draft”. This was not the NFL Draft which took place on 28 April 2016, which saw the LA Rams pick Jared Goff, but the impending and slightly delayed ISO 45001 (Draft) Standard. Like many European and North American safety professionals based in Australia, our frustrations lie with the implementation of a watered-down version of BS OSHAS 18001 which is regionally known as AS/NZS 4801:2001. Our other cause for concern lies with businesses who claim that safety is there number “one priority”, yet either do not understand what “Safety and Risk Management” is or use “Safety” as a buzz word and have a comparatively (and significantly) higher than average Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR). (As a point of reference, the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (Australian Government, Department of Employment) states that the median average for LTIFR is between 4.61 and 5.47 per million hours worked and information available on Safe Work Australia website set an average of 5.9 per million hours worked during 2013/14). These numbers to the rest of the world do read and compare significantly high. Back in March 2013, the proposal was put forward to introduce a new ISO for Occupational Health and Safety, this would then remove the old British Standard (BS OHSAS 18001) as the go to standard which the majority of International Businesses operate to, in some way, shape or form and totally dissolve more “tick in the box” regional standards like AS/NZS 4801:2001. The intention was to create a “Global” benchmark for Occupational Health and Safety, however, as yet this has not been agreed. The DRAFT Standard was heavily based on BS OHSAS 18001, the International Labour Organisations ILO-OHS Guidelines and the ILO’s International Labour Standards and Conventions. Effectively it took the best principals of each “regional” benchmark and incorporated them into something more unified. It is more aligned to the current ISO 9001 & ISO 14001 standards that are currently in place. The key target areas of the DRAFT ISO 45001 Standard were to:

  • Eliminate or minimize those OH&S risks associated with its activities.

  • Establish, implement, and continually improve an OHSMS together with its OH&S performance.

  • Assure itself of its conformity with applicable legal requirements as well as other requirements to which it subscribes.

  • Demonstrate conformity with the requirements of the global principal Occupational Health and Safety Management Standard.

So, who is the standard for? The standard was designed and drafted with all businesses in mind, or to quote the good people at ISO, “ISO 45001 is intended for use by any organisation, regardless of its size or the nature of its work, and can be integrated into other health and safety programmes such as worker wellness and wellbeing. It also addresses many, if not all, legal requirements in this area.” The International Standard (once adopted and approved) will enable an organisation to choose to include other aspects of health and safety beyond “occupational” health and safety (e.g. employee wellness/ well-being) through its OH&S management system. So, what is the Australian fear around The Draft? Well we don’t actually know, for Standards Australia, we can only speculate, It could be the unknown, however the Draft Standard produced by ISO was available to purchase and review only until recently, and the skeptic within me, appears to look at the number of businesses within Australia that do not currently meet the criteria of BS OSHAS 18001, this meaning that certification revenue will fall for Standards Australia as the transition from AS/NZS 4801:2001 and BS OSHAS 18001 will be a three year period and the inevitable gulf between AS/NZS 4801:2001 and the Draft (or inevitably adopted) ISO 45001 comes in. In a statement released by Standards Australia in May 2016, they stated that their concerns focused around “the definition of OH&S Risk”, “How consultation is addressed” and (more significant of a concern) A “greater emphasis on applying known controls rather than unnecessary risk assessment” Standards Australia Statement - May 2016 However, it appears that the forthcoming new Standard has not put off Baring Private Equity Asia who made a $1bn bid for SAI Global (reported Sept 2016). The Hong Kong based business, who are one of the biggest alternative asset management firms in Asia and advises funds with total capital of more than $US10 billion may see SAI Global as a seller of compliance and risk products, including software to businesses, as a gateway to push the new standard to its clients once it’s rollout has been approved. On the other hand, you have Safety Institute of Australia, who also appear to be significantly worried around the new (Draft) Standard and have thrown their support behind the roadblock that Standards Australia have recently attempted to put in place. It should be noted that SIA are one of only 14 organisations within Australia that were concerned enough to try and delay the inevitable standard coming into play. Read the SIA statement on the Draft ISO45001 dated 25 May 2016. Ultimately, as a safety professional, I can only imagine that the worry that my non-European and North American counterparts in Australia have of a new standard. Change can be scary, however considering that the change is for the good of the workforce, the worry about the “cut and paste” culture within Australia needs to be removed. Yes, I agree that the (Draft) Standard is not perfect, yes, I agree that it will need to be a work in progress, however this should not deter the wider body of safety professional of embracing a new era (so to speak) of the compliance culture that we all crave.

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