Is the management representative still needed in ISO/DIS 45001?

The OHSAS 18001 standard will be replaced during 2016 by the new ISO 45001 standard, for which the DIS (Draft International Standard) has now been released into the public domain. We took an initial look at the changes that the DIS will bring in the article First glance at ISO/DIS 45001 – How different is it from OHSAS 18001?, but one of the main changes comes in the form of potential changes to the role of the management representative. In the OHSAS 18001 standard, traditionally, the top management would appoint a management representative who would take care of many of the day-to-day tasks of the OH&S system, but this has changed in the DIS/ISO 45001. So, how has this changed, and how does this affect your organization in terms of complying with the DIS/ISO 45001 standard?

Management representative: What are the alternatives?

DIS/ISO 45001 lays the accountability for the performance of the OH&S system squarely at the door of the organization’s top management, but does assert that top management can authorize responsibility for reporting on the OH&S performance to “an individual (sometimes referred to as the management representative), a member of top management or several individuals.” This change is a positive, as it removes any doubt as to where the responsibility for employee health and well-being lies within an organization, yet it provides top management with some options as to who to authorize when delegating some of the responsibility for day-to-day tasks; after all, a business that uses its Managing Director to administrate all aspects of its OH&S system surely will not be getting value for money from that position or person. So, from the options the DIS/ISO 45001 presents us with, what are the positives and negatives that accompany each?

  • An individual / management representative: Some organizations will be happy to continue with this format, as it will be considered to have worked in the past. But, we have a couple of considerations here; the first is that the ISO family of standards is about continual improvement and this change represents an opportunity to improve our OH&S system, and the second lies with one of the fundamental issues in any OH&S – that of risk and opportunity, which you can read more about in the article How to address risk and opportunity in DIS/ISO 45001 – that is, are there risks to limiting this task to one person and opportunity in seeking an alternative method? Would your workforce be better informed, trained, and engaged by more than one person taking this role?
  • A member of top management: As indicated above, there will be some tasks within the coordination of the EMS that will give your organization no value by assigning them to a member of top management. However, by the terms of the new leadership requirements, it is clear that the business needs to demonstrate leadership commitment to the establishment, maintenance, and improvement of employee health and well-being via your OH&S systems. So, it looks clear that a certain amount of management input and work would be beneficial here.
  • Several individuals: This option also will have some appeal to many businesses, as it is correctly assumed that employee buy-in and consultation are extremely positive things within most OH&S systems. On the negative side, it can sometimes be difficult to manage workloads and assure that tasks are completed on a timely basis when shared amongst several people.

As with most things, a business must find the best solution for its own needs when choosing how to administrate these tasks within the OH&S system. It can reasonably be suggested that a combination of all of the above options would work best: a specified OH&S representative who undertakes the coordination of the EMS via a regular employee forum and meeting, supported visibly by a member of top management who, critically, must demonstrate leadership and assist with communication tasks to ensure the level of awareness and visibility of the OH&S system remains high.

Finding the solution that fits your business

Whatever combination of the above methods your business should choose, the best interests of your business should remain at the heart of the decision. Employee engagement is a critical aspect of any OH&S system, and hazard or risk identification is greatly enhanced by employee engagement. At the same time, management commitment and leadership are critical to enhancing employee awareness and ensuring that the communication channel within a business is timely, effective, and given the correct importance by employees. Finally, the involvement of employees and top management together, theoretically, provides all the ingredients and information for continual improvement to be identified and implemented in the OH&S system on an ongoing basis, which is the goal of the DIS/ISO standard itself. If you can choose the correct OH&S system administration option for you, your business can benefit from that continual improvement.

Why not use our free  Gap Analysis Tool to compare your OH&S system with the OHSAS 18001 standard?

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.