How to gain employee buy-in for ISO 45001 implementation

ISO 45001:2018, is widely considered to be the world’s premier standard for promoting and maintaining health and safety in the workplace. But, even with this being the case, there can be workplaces where any resistance to change is common. So, given this, gaining the buy-in, trust, and confidence of the workforce is critical to the success of an ISO 45001 project. So, what methods can be used to ensure that employee buy-in can be gained?

Gaining employee buy-in – Why, and how?

It is difficult to imagine why anyone would resist change that ultimately will be of benefit to them, but this can be true when trying to implement a standard like ISO 45001 in an organization where employees may be accustomed to certain ways of working. It’s not uncommon, in my experience, for employees to regard a formal OHSMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System) as a “waste of time,” or nothing more than “red tape” when tasks need to be done, but this can be tackled by using and emphasizing several elements that tie into the ISO 45001 standard itself. Let us consider what they are:

  • Communication, consultation, and participation: This is one of the greatest elements in the success of any project, but particularly an ISO 45001 project. From the reasons for adopting the standard, and building an OHSMS itself, through to the communication of all details pertaining to hazard, risk, and process, clear and concise communication can be key to facilitating the understanding of why OH&S is important to both the organization and the individuals who work there. The article How to comply with ISO 45001 communication requirements can help you to understand how to align your communication with the standard.
  • Identification of hazard and risk: As one of the staple elements of ISO 45001, this is an excellent opportunity to engage and involve the workforce, who normally will have specific knowledge of hazards, risks, and opportunities that exist within the processes and areas they work in. Demonstrating that everyone benefits from the correct use of the ISO 45001 system, and the inputs that the workforce can provide, can be a key driver in obtaining full employee engagement. Increased employee involvement means greater safety for everyone, and this can be an extremely compelling argument when seeking employee buy-in. You can learn more about this topic in the article Hazard vs risks – What is the difference according to DIS/ISO 45001?
  • Competence, training, and awareness: This is another excellent opportunity for a “win-win” situation within the OHSMS. While training and the attainment of competence and knowledge are mandatory in the ISO 45001 standard, it also provides the opportunity for further buy-in to be gained. The continued involvement of employees in this phase of the OHSMS and ISO 45001 implementation can help inform, educate, and ensure that OH&S becomes a priority for employees, if it is not already. This is one aspect of the OHSMS process that continues indefinitely; therefore, there is an ongoing opportunity to engage and interact with the employees. If this is done correctly and intelligently, the culture of a company can be effectively changed in a very positive manner. The article The importance of awareness training in ISO 45001 can assist you with this topic.
  • Leadership: It has been said many times that organizations are a reflection of the people who lead them. The level and quality of leadership shown in an ISO 45001 implementation can reflect the level of commitment returned to the project by the employees. If the importance of health and safety is made obvious by the organizational leaders, in many cases the workforce will reciprocate. The actions, attitudes, and commitment of the top management therefore become vital to the success of the project, and are often reflected in the behaviors of the workforce, though this element should be considered as an opportunity for any leader who seeks to promote good practice and health and safety in the organization. The article How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO/DIS 45001 can assist with this element, as the quality of leadership is even more critical in ISO 45001 than it was in previous OHSMS standards.
  • Objective setting: Again, this is key to any OHSMS and to the success of your OH&S Policy. It is helpful here if employees are engaged and involved in the setting of objectives. This demonstrates that the implementation of ISO 45001 is not purely for organizational performance benefit, but also in the best interest of employees in terms of raising safety standards and reducing risk. This can go a long way toward engaging employees and ensuring that the workforce supports the project fully. Learn more about objective setting in the article How to define ISO 45001 objectives and plans.

ISO 45001 employee buy-in: What is the key?

Several common themes run through the task of ensuring employee buy-in for a project such as ISO 45001 – communication, engagement, and involvement. In addition to helping to ensure employee buy-in, these elements can also play a huge part in ensuring your workforce is knowledgeable and competent enough to make the implementation of ISO 45001 a success overall. If you involve your employees in objective setting and information gathering in terms of risk and hazard, and ensure that you have excellent communication channels and methods, employee perception of OH&S importance will naturally improve, and the company culture can slowly change for the better. Critically, providing awareness and training, including information on bad practices that may have contributed to incidents or even deaths in the past, can be a very effective way of successfully engaging employees in OH&S involvement.

This can only be good for both internal and external stakeholders, but the primary benefit are those who, dependent on the sector you operate in, are most at risk: your employees. Involve them in all possible parts of your ISO 45001 implementation, and winning their hearts and minds will be the first step towards a safer workplace.

Use this free Project Proposal for ISO 45001 implementation to manage your ISO 45001 implementation and your employees’ activities.

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.