How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO/DIS 45001

In 2016, we will see the existing OHSAS 18001 replaced by ISO 45001, which is now at the DIS (Draft International Standard) stage. The article First glance at ISO/DIS 45001 – How different is it from OHSAS 18001 provides more useful information on this topic. This change will ensure that the topic of Health and Safety within a business is now easier to integrate into existing management systems, with DIS/ISO 45001 now using the Annex SL format identical to ISO 9001 (Quality Management), ISO 14001 (Environmental Management), and ISO 27001 (Information Security), meaning that a common format and terminology will exist among all of the above standards. One of the critical changes in ISO/DIS 45001 includes the extra responsibilities and requirements placed upon the organization in terms of leadership, which are significantly more prescriptive than in the previous OHSAS 18001 standard. So, what does the DIS/ISO standard say about leadership, and how can we ensure that we meet these requirements?

Leadership: The new requirements

Section 5.1 of the DIS deals with “Leadership and commitment,” which provides more focus on this subject than was found in the OHSAS 18001 standard. Top management now has to demonstrate leadership and commitment by taking responsibility for protection of all work-related workers’ safety. This statement is probably the key part of this new clause, and leaves no doubt as to where the responsibility for the safety of workers and contractors in the organization lies. So, what else does the DIS require of organizational leadership?

  • Ensuring that OH&S (Operational Health and Safety) objectives exist and are in line with the strategic aims of the organization.
  • Ensuring that the OH&S objectives and policy itself are aligned with the strategic direction of the organization.
  • Ensuring that the OH&S processes can be integrated into the wider business processes of the organization.
  • Ensuring that resources are available to achieve these objectives for the maintenance of a safe working environment and that consultation and employee feedback are sought when relevant.
  • Supporting and directing the appropriate people to assist with ensuring the OH&S achieves its aims.
  • Supporting other management roles to the betterment of the OH&S system, and ensuring continual improvement is attained by dealing with non-conformity, risk and opportunity, and hazard. Read more about risk and opportunity in this article, entitled How to address risks and opportunities in ISO/DIS 45001.
  • Ensuring that the leadership demonstrated promotes a culture that supports the OH&S system and its objectives.

As we can see, the leadership and commitment requirements are far more specific in the ISO/DIS, and indeed, that is a good thing; there can now be no doubt whatsoever about where the responsibility for employee health and safety lies – not with a representative or committee, but with the leadership itself. So, are there any other tips we can use to ensure we provide a safe environment while meeting our compliance requirements?

Leadership: A tool to improve safety

There are many positives to be taken from the new leadership requirements in ISO/DIS 45001. In most organizations, employees tend to take the lead from their top person, so if that leader sets a good example and shows a culture of “OH&S consciousness,” then it is likely that will be reflected in the mindsets of the employees and the results that the OH&S management system produces. Therefore, if that leader shows enthusiasm, a willingness to engage and listen to employees, excellent communication skills, and a generally proactive attitude toward health and safety, then that will go a long way in most organizations toward ensuring that OH&S remains a high-priority subject. In my experience, one of the main weapons that a leader has in this position is his/her ability to engage with the workforce, attend committee meetings, and demonstrate the organization’s willingness to consider everyone’s opinions when assessing risk and opportunity and defining policy and objectives. That ability tends to shape the opinion of the workforce on the leader’s commitment, and when a leader takes a subject seriously, it generally follows that the team does, too. And that will be a benefit to all.

To find out more about the changes between OHSAS 18001 and ISO/DIS 45001, download the  free comparison matrix.

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.