5 tips to make your ISO 45001 implementation project successful

Updated 2018-11-13 according to ISO 45001

When you are implementing an Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) management system using the requirements of ISO 45001, you will want to take any steps necessary to make sure that your system is implemented right the first time. In this way, you can save not only time, but also money that can be better used working towards the improvements you want for your management system. By controlling the following challenges, you can help maintain your progress towards your goal of ISO 45001 implementation and keep your project on track.

1) Make sure you know where to start.

The process of implementing an OH&S management system will differ from company to company, so there is no one perfect place to start. You need to make your management system company-specific by addressing the health & safety activities and process that are unique to your company, or else the system will not be successful in the long run. The ISO 45001 requirements are a good guide for which processes need to be in place, but how you do this is up to you.

This is why it is best to start with a gap analysis to determine what you already have in place versus the requirements of ISO 45001. This will let you know what is already compliant, and what else you need to do to finish the job. You don’t want to be surprised halfway through the project to find out that you missed something big.

To see how close you already are with your OH&S management system, try out this online ISO 45001 Gap Analysis Tool.

2) Get management support.

Even if you can struggle through and implement ISO 45001 without the support of your management, it will be difficult to maintain the system once it is in place without their buy-in. Selling the project to top management now will help in the long run. If you want some guidance on what to say, check out this post on 4 key benefits of ISO 45001 for your business.

3) Begin with the fundamentals.

There are four elements that form the basis of your OH&S management system. If they are put in place first, you’ll have a good foundation upon which to build your other processes:

  1. OH&S Policy: This is how top management outlines the overall direction for how the company will address the OH&S factors within the company processes.
  2. Legal requirements: You can only work towards legal compliance if you first identify, understand, and maintain your knowledge of the legal requirements that are applicable to what you do. You can then build a management system to support this.
  3. OH&S hazards: What are the potential issues within your company processes that can cause health & safety problems? This understanding is the cornerstone for the processes of the OH&S management system.
  4. Objectives and plans: One of the key elements of the OH&S management system is to improve. The way you do this is by setting objectives for yourself to meet, and then create the necessary plans to make it happen. Without the proper planning, there will be no improvement.

While these are the first documents that need to be made, there are more. Check out this Checklist of Mandatory Documentation Required by ISO 45001 for more details.

4) Find your OH&S representative.

Although it is not a formal requirement in ISO 45001, having a member of top management who is responsible for the OH&S management system gives you a conduit for top management to keep informed about what is going on in your system. In this way, top management can assign the resources needed to ensure that the necessary improvements are made. Choosing the right person can build upon the initial management support and help you drive improvement.

5) Figure out how you will learn what you need to know.

You must find a way to learn what you need to know if this is your first time implementing an OH&S management system. There are three basic options to do this:

  1. Using only your own employees: You will need to find a way to train yourself and your team in many areas, from how to write procedures to how to best document your hazards and risks. It can be difficult to make sure you do not miss anything but, in the end, you will have all of the knowledge for maintaining your system within your organization.
  2. Using your employees with help from outside: By using some outside resources, you can make the job easier. This could involve consultancy services or using templates and online tools to help, but you still get to keep the knowledge within your organization at the end.
  3. Have a consultant do it all: This is always an option, and many consultants are happy to do it for you. This is often the most expensive option, and if you are not careful, the consultant will leave with all of the important information needed to maintain your system.

You will have better success if you have this firm foundation.

The better you plan these first five steps, the easier it will be to identify any problems that may occur in your implementation before they become big and difficult to address. By identifying the problems early, you can deal with them quickly and prevent the implementation from being delayed.  And, this benefit all comes back to the proper planning with regards to the earliest steps in your project. Plan well, and your implementation will run more smoothly.

To help with planning for implementing ISO 45001, why not check out this free template Project plan for ISO 45001 implementation?

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.