Benefits of SWOT analysis in ISO 45001

Many companies use a SWOT analysis in their business planning, and this can be a helpful tool to use in the Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OHSMS) as well. ISO 45001:2018 requires a company to identify top-level issues, risks, and opportunities, which is exactly what the SWOT analysis does. This is why ISO 45001 can use SWOT analysis as a very useful tool to address the above-mentioned requirements of the standard.

How does SWOT analysis work?

SWOT is an acronym that stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The SWOT analysis is a systematic approach for an organization to identify the internal strengths and weaknesses of the organization, as well as the external opportunities and threats that affect the organization. As a strategic planning approach, this tool is used to perceive the competitive position of a company, which allows you to identify items that can be addressed to fix current problems and develop future potential.

Typically, the process is used as a brainstorming session where top management considers where they are doing well and where they can improve. In general, if an issue is internal and helpful, it is a strength of the organization; however, if it is internal and harmful, it is a weakness. Likewise, if an issue is external and potentially helpful, it is an opportunity, and if it is external and potentially harmful, it is a threat. These are then listed on a chart, such as the one shown below, for assessment.

Once known, the issues are assessed. For internal strengths, is there some way that the company can use this to their advantage? And for weaknesses, does the company need to take action to make sure these weaknesses do not harm the organization? With external opportunities, does the company want to take action to try to capture these positive chances, including taking some risk to capture them? And for threats, does the company need to take action to prevent these negative risks from occurring, dependent on the potential consequences?

ISO 45001 SWOT analysis: What are the benefits?

For more about risk, read the article What to include in risk management methodology according to ISO 45001:2018.

How can you use SWOT analysis with the ISO 45001 OHSMS?

There are three clauses in ISO 45001:2018 that can be addressed by using a SWOT analysis technique. The first is clause 4.1, Understanding the organization and its context, which requires you to determine the internal and external issues that are relevant to the OHSMS. The second is clause, Assessment of OH&S risks and other risks to the OH&S management system, which asks you to assess other OH&S management system risks (called “threats” in the SWOT analysis). Finally, clause, Assessment of OH&S opportunities and other opportunities for the OH&S management system, requires you to assess what you will do about opportunities for improving OH&S performance. While SWOT analysis is not used to assess risks and  opportunities, it can be used to identify the risks and opportunities that need to be assessed.

So, if you approach the SWOT analysis with a focus on occupational health & safety, you can identify the internal and external issues that affect your OHSMS and the ability to meet your OH&S performance goals. You can also identify the risks and opportunities that need to be considered for the future of your OHSMS. The SWOT analysis is a tool that can be used to identify and categorize these different considerations for your OHSMS.

An example

An example of the SWOT analysis used for OH&S could include the following identified elements: Strength – The company has a strong employee attitude towards maintaining a safe workplace; Weakness – The company is growing, so many new employees are being added and OH&S training is delayed; Opportunity – A supplier has identified a new chemical that is less hazardous to employee health, and that may be acceptable for use in our cleaning process; Threat – Changing customer requirements indicate that a current process chemical may need to be replaced with a more hazardous chemical.

Once identified, you can then determine what actions you will take to address each issue, risk, or opportunity. Note that this does not mean that actions need to be taken for everything. If you assess an opportunity and determine that you do not want to pursue it, then you do not need to. Likewise, if the actions to address a risk exceed the potential consequences of the risk happening, you can also choose to do nothing about a risk. The SWOT analysis is a tool to identify, not a mandate to control.

SWOT analysis: A tool for all your management systems

One thing to remember is that these clauses of the ISO 45001 standard are common to all of the ISO standards, so the SWOT analysis can be used to identify internal and external issues, opportunities, and risks for all of the different management systems you choose to implement. If you also implement ISO 9001:2015, the SWOT analysis can be used with a focus on providing goods and services. If you have an Environmental Management System using ISO 14001:2015, then your SWOT analysis can focus on environmental performance.

The SWOT analysis is a tool that can be very helpful, but it is up to you to determine if it is the right tool for your organization. The ISO standards do not tell you how to meet the requirements, so if a SWOT analysis helps your company to improve, then use it to the best of your ability.

To learn about the requirements mentioned in this article, download this free Clause-by-clause explanation of ISO 45001:2018.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.