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How to comply with ISO 45001 communication requirements

In previous articles we have examined the benefits a well-constructed ISO 45001:2018 system can bring to a workplace and its stakeholders, and ultimately to the performance, reputation and well-being of the business. In the article The importance of awareness training in ISO 45001 we looked at the importance of awareness and training to your Health and Safety System, and the subject of communication is every bit as important to the overall performance. Obviously, you can have a well-designed OHSMS system with correctly defined inputs and outputs, but given the changes in legislation and the local issues you will face, if you do not have an effective and well-established communication channel, then your OHSMS clearly will be less effective than desired. So, what do we need to consider? Who do we need to ensure is included in the communication channel, and how is this achieved? And who is responsible for ensuring this happens?

What ISO 45001 says

Clause 7.4. of ISO 45001 deals with communication. The standard deems that the organization should establish and implement a process to communicate internally and externally, and ensure any documents from external stakeholders are processed correctly. Just as the standard suggests that top management must assign responsibility for the performance of the OHSMS, then it is sensible for the avoidance of doubt that the same person has responsibility for communication, albeit with some probable assistance from Health & Safety team members.

How to achieve it?

So, how can we ensure that any necessary communication reaches its intended target?

  • Notice boards: whether physical or electronic, it is good practice to ensure that you have any legislative documents plus any necessary news or changes on the notice board, which you can show to employees on induction and contractors during the facility tour. This can also be where you display key performance metrics.
  • Email communication: why not construct a list of all internal and external stakeholders, whereby you can ensure that everyone receives regular updates?
  • Employee forum: encourage your team to be part of an employee forum where information and ideas can be exchanged, and news is constantly relayed back to the team.
  • Regular on-site meetings / communications sessions: have a weekly or monthly update where the team can hear about any changes to legislation, new processes, or other vital information.
  • Electronic signing of mandatory documents or legislation changes: this is a good option to explore to ensure that employees not only receive written confirmation of changes, but electronically sign these to ensure you can update their training records accordingly. This technology can be found online for little or no expense at all.
  • Create a process for receiving, storing, and providing a version history for any external documentation needed for your OHSMS. Communication is important, but ensuring you communicate the correct information and version is also vital!
  • Ensure you document and record all of the above. Displaying effective communication is a requirement for compliance with the ISO 45001 standard.

So, if you can ensure that you accomplish the above for your OHSMS, your results should be more positive in terms of meeting your Health & Safety objectives. Those are the benefits, but what is the downside if we don’t achieve good communication?

Good communication versus bad communication

The benefit of good communication, as mentioned above, is ensuring that you give yourself the best possible chance of achieving your objectives in terms of Health and Safety. The implications of ineffective communication are, however, serious. If employees and contractors are not fully aware of internal processes, fire muster points, first aid kit locations, and fire extinguishers, as well as any legislation changes, then the implications could be disastrous. Risk assessment and internal audits cannot be effective without being communicated within the organization. Many accidents in the workplace have lack of knowledge, and therefore communication, as the root cause. The best process in the world will not function effectively if not communicated to the stakeholders properly. Make sure it doesn’t happen in your workplace.

To learn about communication and other requirements in ISO 45001, download this free white paper: Clause-by-clause explanation of ISO 45001:2018

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.