How to implement operational control in ISO 45001

Updated 2018-11-29 according to ISO 45001

Clause 8.1 of the ISO 45001 standard deals with operational planning and control, which can be defined as a function that “helps to check the errors and to take corrective action so that deviations from standards are minimized and stated goals of the organization are achieved in a desired manner.” It is, therefore, obvious that operational control is absolutely critical to the performance of any management system, given that you can have the best practices, policies, and procedures in the world, but they can become ineffective if you lack the discipline and operational control to ensure they have the desired effect. So, given the criticality of operational control to your Health & Safety environment, and consequently, on the well-being of your workforce, what do you need to understand about the basics of this subject?

Operational control: What, why and how?

As we have stated above, operational control is critical and can come in several different forms. If, for example, you have an ISO 45001 system, you will have requirements for risk assessment, internal audits, and so forth. Your level of operational control should determine that these happen in a timely and regular fashion and that actions and outputs from these functions are undertaken in the correct manner to ensure your system yields the improvement it needs. So, in practical terms, how do we achieve this?

  • Use an OH&S planning diary to help you ensure that operational control is maintained. If you create an electronic version, you can share it with your team and allow everyone to see when tasks and events are scheduled. You can even use a traffic light type of rule (red/yellow/green) to signify that actions from that particular events are complete and closed off. This not only displays an organization’s high level of operational control, but also its commitment to openness and employee engagement.
  • Create an “Operational Control Log” for your document system. Make it part of the OH&S team’s responsibility at its periodic meetings to ensure that all operational control functions are up to date and all tasks set are completed. Review, modify, and improve after every meeting, ensuring that employee and stakeholder input is taken into account. Stakeholder involvement be viewed as an increasingly important part of an organization’s operational control these days. Consider using your corrective action process if tasks slip and operational control is seen to be less effective than desired.
  • Ensure that the delegated OH&S representative reports on the level of operational control back to both the Health & Safety and Management Teams. If, for example, internal audit and risk assessments are not undertaken and completed on time, then the level of operational control is insufficient and your OH&S performance will undoubtedly suffer.

The standard specifically mentions operational control in terms of purchasing, change management, contractors, outsourcing, and your own policies and procedures. As long as operational control is considered and written into your own policies when constructed, then you can use the methodologies shown above to manage the internal control overall and ensure your OH&S system functions in a timely and efficient manner. In a nutshell, define methods and responsibilities and process, monitor, review, and adjust. It sounds a lot like the traditional “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle, and it very much is, but with some tricks to ensure we keep our processes and tasks in check.

Operational control: The benefits

Clearly, the benefits of having operational control from a strategic point of view – like planning and policy writing, which you can read more about in this previous article How to write an OH&S Policy – are vital, but using tips like these that ensure your OH&S performance is never allowed to slip out of scope can be extremely helpful, too. If you can join the two together successfully, then you should have an OH&S system that is efficient, accurate, and that provides you with the data required to allow you to perform corrective action and improvement diligently. Assuming excellent operational control also can be a positive for employee morale: for example, if you commit to assessing risk in an internal situation in June and it is not done until July, what does that say to your employees about the organization’s prioritization of health and safety and concern for their well-being? Demonstrating your operational control can also be vital for your stakeholders and shareholders, too – who wants to do business with an organization that lacks this quality? Implement your plan today, as it’s a vital part of delivering safety and well-being for your people in the short and long term.

Please use our free ISO 45001 Gap Analysis Tool to evaluate your implementation of the 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.