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Determining interested parties according to ISO 45001

As the premier management standard applied within businesses to promote employee safety and well-being, ISO 45001 replaces OHSAS 18001 in March 2018. Among the changes in ISO 45001 will be the requirement to determine “interested parties,” assess their needs and expectations, and decide what impact they may have on your Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OH&SMS). So, if we consider that this terminology may be unfamiliar to many people, what exactly does it mean, and how can an organization ensure that this element is both understood and complied with?

What constitutes an “interested party”?

Managing the expectations of stakeholders or “interested parties” is vital to the success of any organization, and arguably, even more in an OH&SMS than any other management system. An “interested party” can be defined as any organization, individual, or group of individuals that may be affected by the activities of the organization. Therefore, when an organization considers its interested parties and combines this with the context of the organization itself, it should go a long way towards defining the overall scope of the management system, an element we examined in the article How to determine the scope of the OH&SMS. So, what examples exist for what may constitute an “interested party” within an OH&SMS?

Interested parties – Who qualifies?

Engaging with your employees, partners, and stakeholders is critical when you are compiling a list of interested parties, because many of these people will have an opinion on whom to include, and their importance to the OH&SMS. Let’s look at some examples that an organization needs to consider:

  • Employees – the most obvious interested party for any organization
  • Management and shareholders – again, vitally linked to all the company’s activities
  • External parties, contractor and service providers – if you consider the relationship between the organization and these parties, then it becomes clear that the actions of your contractors and service providers entitle them to be listed as an “interested party.”
  • Manufacturing partners – any partner has a significant interest in the outcome of any organization’s activities
  • Government or legislative bodies – when legislative needs must be met, then these bodies effectively become interested parties
  • Pressure groups and neighbors, trade unions – this mostly depends on your organization’s business sector; for example, if you work for a nuclear power provider, then it stands to reason that neighbors and pressure groups may be very interested in the organization’s health and safety activities and the potential consequences of these activities
  • The company’s insurers – less obvious, but premiums may rise if an organization has many accidents; therefore, the insurer effectively becomes an interested party

Although this list is not exhaustive, you can see the types of considerations that an organization should make when determining who should be included in the interested party list. So, now that we understand how to identify these interested parties, how should we record this information, and what should be done with it?

Classifying and recording interested party information

Listing interested parties and trying to categorize the nature of their interest is the next step, and it makes sense to retain this as documented information, as review and adjustment of this constantly changing category will be required. So, what’s the best way to go about this? These are the elements we need to consider:

  • List the interested parties, and define their relevance to your organization and its OH&SMS.
  • List the details of the interested party’s expectations, how influential they are, and how their expectations could change any OH&SMS activities that your organization may undertake.
  • Set your priorities, objectives, and compliance obligations – this is where you must decide how many, if any of these expectations become “compliance obligations,” i.e., expectations that may need action from your organization. It now becomes wise to assess the possible consequences if you don’t follow any or some of these compliance obligations. It is also important to understand the risks and possible penalties that this may bring to the organization. You can read more on this topic in the article What are the new requirements for risks and opportunities according to ISO 45001?.

Undertaking this process will help you to identify, classify, and understand what actions your organization needs to take to ensure that its OH&S activities do not negatively affect its stakeholders.

Recognizing the benefits of understanding interested parties

Apart from helping to define the scope of your OH&SMS, identifying your interested parties and taking the desired action has one major benefit: ensuring that customer satisfaction is maintained and enhanced. Though customer satisfaction is one of the main objectives of ISO 9001, and not specifically ISO 45001, meeting the expectations of interested parties can also be achieved under ISO 45001. The assessment of this element of the standard can allow your organization to engage even more closely with stakeholders and partners than ever before, which can bring relationship and business benefits to your organization. The other main advantage is that the re-engagement of employees and contractors can bring a renewed focus to employee well-being and the prevention of accidents. When enhanced customer satisfaction and improved employee safety and well-being are the results, and the benefits of successfully determining interested parties become clear, then continual improvement of your OH&SMS is also guaranteed.

To see in which phase you need to identify interested parties, check out this free ISO 45001 implementation diagram.

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.