How to build a consulting career with ISO 45001

ISO 45001:2018 is the standard guide for many businesses on how to establish an OHSMS (Occupational Health & Safety Management System) and ensure that the workplace is safe for employees. Given that this standard is used worldwide, there is understandably a constant demand by organizations who feel they need a consultant to help demonstrate both exactly what the clauses of the standard dictate, and how those specific requirements can relate and be applied to their particular business and its sector. Therefore, it stands to reason that many people wish to become a consultant, so what is the best way to go about achieving this?

ISO 45001 consultancy: What route to take?

Whether working for a consultancy or becoming self-employed, the ISO 45001 consultant differs from many other professions in that there is no single prescribed route to this position in terms of formal qualification and experience. Qualifications such as NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Health & Safety) or IOSH (Institute of Safety & Health), however, can provide a strong foundation for a consultant’s knowledge base, as can the assistance of a degree or diploma from a university or college. Similarly, courses such as those run for ISO 45001 lead auditors can be very informative and helpful, but it is advisable to ensure that the training provider is credible. Over and above formal qualifications there is a special set of skills that a consultant will need to be effective and successful though, so what are they and can they be developed?

ISO 45001: What skills do I need?

It is safe to say that a successful consultant will require a special set of skills, so let us examine them in more detail:

  • Knowledge of the standard: Obvious, but critical. An ISO 45001 consultant must have detailed knowledge of the standard and what is expected, and be on top of any changes that come around.
  • Legislation knowledge: Again, this is vital. It may not be expected that a consultant has knowledge of every piece of legislation for every industry, but awareness of key legislation and how to find, assess, and track it is vital.
  • A keen eye for detail: A consultant is expected to pick up on things other employees may miss, which is why he/she is being hired. As a consultant, you need the eye for detail to ensure that you bring extra value to any project you are hired to contribute to or manage.
  • A good leader: It is probable as an ISO 45001 consultant that you may have to bridge the gap between top management and the workforce, and “sell” the merits of a project to both. Good leadership skills can be critical in achieving this. The expectations of leadership in the top team can be understood further in the article How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO/DIS 45001.
  • A good communicator: The best plans can go wrong with ineffective planning, so ensure that your communication is timely, accurate, and concise. A lack of communication can lead directly to a lack of awareness and competence in the workforce, so it is critical to ensure that this gap is closed.
  • Good organizational skills: An ISO 45001 project can be complex and may not be linear: you may be working on several different strands at once. Ensure you are well organized and you stand a better chance of succeeding.
  • A good problem solver: Above all, you will be perceived as the person who has the solution to the problems in an ISO 45001 project, so the ability to solve problems and give good advice is key. Whether hazard identification, risk assessment, compliance with legislation, or general project advice, you will be expected to give the answers. If you don’t have the answers, you will be expected to find them. Be measured, level, and organized, and research and prepare as well as possible.

This should all make sense, but is there anything else you can do to prepare yourself?

The final ingredient: Experience

In one word, “yes.” Just as you wouldn’t let someone drive your car without any experience or driving lessons, it is not wise to appoint a consultant with absolutely no experience. Gaining experience in the workplace, speaking to employees, and finding out how processes work can be the key foundation to undertaking a career as an ISO 45001 consultant. The more industries you work in, the more rounded your experience will be and the greater your ability to identify and find solutions to problems.

While there is no given prescription for success, I would suggest that a balance between formal education and workplace experience is the place to start. Consider key training like internal audit courses, for example – every consultant needs the knowledge of how they work to ensure they are effective, and likewise, the more training you can undertake on relevant components of the standard like audit, hazard, and risk, the better. Use online training, whether for lead auditor, internal auditor, or simply on the standard itself. Read case studies, and if possible, speak to fellow consultants who can provide you with guidance. Vitally, learn from any mistakes you make – you are now part of the continual improvement cycle, too!

Why not use our free  Gap Analysis Tool to compare your OH&S system against the requirements of the standard once you start the implementation.

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.