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Who is the ideal project manager for your ISO 45001 project?

Updated 2018-11-29 according to ISO 45001

Embarking on the implementation of an OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety) management system is a very important and complex commitment for many organizations, and critical to the health and safety and well-being of its employees. Aligning the OH&S management system with the ISO 45001 standard makes great sense, but also calls for extra attention to detail and knowledge of the standard itself, as well as internal process knowledge and health and safety experience. With this in mind, it therefore stands to reason that the choice of a project manager for such an implementation will have a large bearing on the success of such a project and also the ultimate performance of the OH&S management system itself. So, what should an organization be looking for when it makes this decision?

Project manager skills – What is needed?

Project management skills are obviously important for a role like this, but equally, this person needs to have a grip of good health and safety practice, amongst other attributes. So, what should we be looking for when appointing this person? Let’s examine:

  • Project management experience: Obviously, this is important. As with any project, there will be multiple strands and actions running simultaneously, and ensuring that a project runs to plan and is managed appropriately is vital.
  • ISO 45001 knowledge: Knowledge of the standard is critical, and it is difficult to manage such a project without this – even when a project manager is delegating tasks, knowledge that the delegated work meets the terms of the standard can prove advantageous.
  • Be a communicator: The success of the project and the safety of employees can be enhanced by good communication – keeping the workforce informed and motivated is a huge factor.
  • Have solid OH&S and risk awareness: Much of an ISO 45001 project can be delegated, but ultimately, the project manager is responsible. Knowledge of OH&S principles, hazard identification, and risk assessment is critical for your project manager if the project is to succeed. You can read more about this topic in the article Hazards vs. Risks – What is the difference according to DIS/ISO 45001?
  • Be “legislation aware”: Knowledge is key in ensuring your organization adheres to and keeps track of legislation. Therefore, your project manager should not only have some knowledge of legislation, but also know how to manage the upkeep of the legislation.
  • Have a strong personality: The project manager will need to harness the ability and influence of top management to ensure the necessary leadership is shown, and coax the employees to “buy in” to the project similarly. All these aspects require a strong personality who will not be deterred when progress is not as expected, or when stakeholders deem the project to be less important than the project manager himself/herself does, as will normally happen in most projects at some time.
  • Be an “evangelist”: The project manager should believe in the project; this really does make a difference in the way stakeholders and employees perceive its importance. As with most things, attitude makes a huge difference and a project manager with belief will have a far better chance of delivering a project that is successful and an OH&S management system that produces good results.
  • Be organized and a “planner”: This sounds obvious, but at some time the running of the OH&S management system will pass over to another employee/s, and the level of planning and organization by the project manager will be critical on how easy or difficult the handover is. Processes and documentation that are well defined and easy to follow will ensure that the OH&S management system is well equipped for use in the future, too.

Internal candidate or external candidate?

It may be tempting to think that you do not have the person with all the correct attributes in your organization to complete the project manager’s role, but you have several things to consider. Firstly, an external candidate will not necessarily understand all the cultural, political, and contextual factors that will affect your project, so it may be that it is more advantageous to give an internal employee training to supplement his/her existing skills. Another option is to hire an external consultant, but it will pay to make sure that the consultant works closely with the project manager, and skills brought in are shared with your project manager and team as opposed to this becoming a one-time only implementation. Again, consider these options carefully. Choosing the best one can not only provide a smooth ISO 45001 implementation, but can give you a good foundation should you wish to implement ISO 9001, ISO 14001, or ISO 27001 in the future.

Making the right choice for your organization

As you have seen, there are a number of considerations to make when you come to selecting your ISO 45001 project manager. Most of all, you must make the correct decision for your own organization, and both the short- and long-term health and safety of your workforce and stakeholders. Consider your current situation, and also how the OH&S management system should operate in the future. Encourage your top team to help monitor the project and receive regular reports, and react to any project creep accordingly. Select and put your trust in the correct project manager, and not only will your organizational health and safety improve quickly with a smooth ISO 45001 implementation, but your future will be safer, too.

Why not use our Gap Analysis Tool to measure your OH&S management system against the ISO 45001 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.