The importance of awareness training in ISO 45001

Updated 2018-12-04 according to ISO 45001

When it comes to ensuring the health and safety of employees within the workplace today, ISO 45001 is the specific ISO Standard compiled to give guidance on this most important of matters. Whether you work in the nuclear power industry or in a small office environment, there will be health and safety considerations in your immediate environment, as well as constantly changing legislation that needs to be assessed and implemented. Clause 7.3 of the standard details how awareness should be approached, but when dealing with the safety of employees in the workplace, it is clear that this issue is more important than simply putting something in place to satisfy a clause within a standard. When it comes to health and safety, a lack of awareness can lead to incidents that can have long-reaching implications for your workforce’s health and the long-term profitability of your business, so it stands to reason that it is in everyone’s interest that all employees are educated and informed. So, how can your business ensure that this is the case?

Training and awareness: The basics

Having the best OH&S Policy possible is always good practice, but it is much less effective if nobody has taken the time to read it (see this article to learn more: How to write an OHSAS Policy). Effective education and awareness within your OH&S management system should tie in with certain processes in your Quality and Environmental Management Systems, should you be using an integrated system. If you are creating an OH&S Policy and system alone, that’s fine too – but in that case it is good practice to create a Training and Communication record for your employees. This can take whatever format you prefer, but should capture the following details:

  • Employee name
  • Date policy or information was communicated
  • Refresh date for training, if applicable
  • Employee signature and agreement (physical or electronic)

This seems very basic, and to an extent it is, but with OH&S matters it is critical that all employees are made aware of your policy and any communications, legislation, and changes that may affect you. When an employee signs to say they have read a communication, it also opens the way for one of the most vital parts of any OH&S management system: employee feedback. A company’s most valuable input to assessing risk and implementing positive change will generally come from the employees who work within the process on a daily basis and know it best. Therefore, ensuring that staff are aware of all initial policies and procedures and kept aware of any changes on a formal basis will allow them to form an opinion and begin the ever-valuable feedback loop, which leads to both continual improvement and a safer workplace.

Training and awareness: Continual improvement

Continual improvement is at the heart of all the ISO management system standards, and ISO 45001 is no different. You can read how to use corrective and preventive action in this blog article: Seven steps for corrective and preventive action in the OH&S management system and while this is a fundamental tool in the continual improvement cycle, you need to consider two things:

  • Where the knowledge and information to produce corrective action comes from
  • How that improvement is communicated effectively to ensure that the continual improvement filters effectively through the workforce, process, and business

Therefore, in my experience it is often a good idea to increase training, awareness, and involvement in your organization by forming an OH&S forum or steering group. While you still need to formally record policy, legislation, and other vital changes in your Training and Communication record as suggested above, a group such as this brings extra brainpower, increased involvement, and diverse opinions to your OH&S system. It also brings extra focus to the importance of health and safety within the workplace, encourages suggestions, and feeds the continual improvement cycle. Also, remember to formally record the minutes and outcomes of the meetings of this type of group – you will normally have some spirited discussion, but you will also have some very good ideas that need to be recorded for future reference, as an idea forgotten is the same as no idea at all. Ensure that the opinions of all your group are considered and valued, and ensure that the importance of ISO 45001 and its impact on your health and safety performance is understood.

Encouraging employees to talk about subjects such as health and safety increases knowledge and awareness, and ensures that maintaining a safe working environment is at the top of an organization’s agenda. That can only be a positive thing for everyone involved with your organization.

Why not use our free ISO 45001 GAP Analysis Tool to get started on your OH&S management system?

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.