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How roles and responsibilities have changed in DIS/ISO 45001

In 2016, we will see OHSAS 18001 replaced by ISO 45001, the DIS (draft international standard) now being in the public domain. In a previous article: Is the management representative still needed in ISO DIS 45001? we looked at the requirements of the management representative within the OH&S system, but there are also significant changes around specific roles and responsibilities in general, which will change the way that a company’s OH&S is administrated and operated. So, what are these changes and what does a company have to do to ensure that it complies with the new 45001 standard?

Roles & responsibilities in ISO 45001

ISO 45001 is very clear about the responsibilities of top management within the OH&S system, leaving no doubt that responsibility clearly lies at the door of the top team. However, there are some specific requirements in terms of how roles and responsibilities within the OH&S system are assigned. Let’s look at them in more detail:

  • Top management shall ensure that the responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities for relevant roles within the OH&S management system are assigned and communicated at all levels within the organization and maintained as documented information. This not only specifies that the top team should assign responsibility and authority, but also that they must record these as “documented information” and communicate to all levels. This provides several elements within the OH&S system: proof of assignment of authority to responsible people, communication to all stakeholders of this, and reference back to these authorities via documented information for the removal of any doubt. This should ensure responsibility, knowledge, effective communication, and recording of details for reference.
  • Workers at each level of the organization shall assume responsibility for those aspects of the OH&S management system over which they have control. This leaves absolutely no doubt in terms of where responsibility lies for any tasks or operations delegated to individuals, and is a key element of the standard. This statement also illustrates that employees “at all levels” should be involved in your OH&S system.

The ISO 45001 standard goes on to state that top management shall assign the responsibility and authority for:

  • Ensuring that the OH&S management system conforms to the requirements of this International Standard. Meeting the terms of the standard is critical, and the top team must clearly assign responsibility for ensuring this happens for the avoidance of doubt.
  • Reporting on the performance of the OH&S management system to top management. Another critical function of the OH&S system, top management must clearly define authority for reporting performance, which provides a basis for analysis, review, and improvement.

So, in summary, ISO 45001 provides more specific guidance on roles and responsibilities than its OHSAS 18001 predecessor. Clearly, the goals would appear to be that there is no question over responsibility within the OH&S system, that these authorities are communicated accurately at all levels, and that they are recorded for reference and to ensure that responsibility cannot be sidestepped.

Roles & responsibilities: the goals and outcomes

It is quite clear that the ISO 45001 standard seeks to ensure that responsibility for the OH&S system, while delegated by the top team, is shared by employees and stakeholders with clear and defined lines of duty and the knowledge that the detail of responsibility for all tasks is clearly defined, recorded, and effectively communicated to all. While it makes sense to foster an environment where everyone takes responsibility for OH&S performance, as well as personal responsibility, it is clear that defined lines need to exist as to where authority lies. Recognition of borders for roles and responsibilities provides the basis of any effective OH&S system, just as subsequently, the ability to involve all employees provides the information to establish and improve it. Plan your roles and responsibilities on this basis, and your OH&S will have a solid foundation on which you can produce excellent results.

Why not use our free  Gap Analysis Tool to measure your own OH&S system against the 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.