Benefits of ISO 45001 for small businesses
Running a small business can be quite challenging, especially when you’re just getting started. Among many priority issues in the beginning, there are obligations regarding legal requirements, including matters for occupational health and safety at work, many of which are requirements of international standard(s), as well. Entrepreneurs who want to set a solid foundation and grow their business to be sustainable, even if they start out small, recognize the implementation of occupational health and safety management standard ISO 45001 as their tool in achieving those goals. In this article, you’ll learn about the benefits of ISO 45001 for small businesses.
Small businesses’ OH&S practices have a crucial impact on the national economy
Before numbering all the benefits, it’s important to emphasize that small businesses in many national economies represent the majority of a business community, and thus have a large impact on the entire economy and society in general.
By definition, the criteria for small businesses are defined by many factors such as number of employees, type of industry or business sector, and the annual turnover. A small business can vary from just a few employees, e.g., a bakery, a pharmacy, a trading company, or a small grocery shop, up to 500 production employees in a manufacturing organization.
Regardless of the size or sector that small businesses cover, they play an important role in one economy as a whole, because healthy workers (employees), and healthy and safe working environments in small businesses mean a healthy economy and a healthy society in general.
No matter how big or small the scope of the organization is, safety must come first. A properly implemented Occupational Health and Safety Management System contributes to an effective and efficient framework for the employees that will help minimize and/or prevent injuries, accidents, near-miss accidents, medical illnesses, or even deaths.
The challenges that small businesses face due to work injuries or illness include labor shortages, especially in those organizations / companies that have only a few employees. Employee absences certainly affect the productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency of other employees, as well as the quantity of product or service delivered, whether on a short- or long-term basis.
Learn more about how to protect staff in the article How to be prepared for a health and safety incident.
Decreased OH&S risks
Small businesses are not immune to risks, and certainly not to occupational and health risks. Because the international standard ISO 45001 is applicable to any organization regardless of its size, type, and activity, with managing OH&S risks, among other factors, the organization is taking into account the needs and expectations of its workers and other interested parties.
By participation and consultation of the workers and interested parties, not only are the employees concerned and engaged, but also contractors, subcontractors, external providers, and other interested parties, so the OH&S system affects a wider circle of parties. It contributes to fulfilling their expectations, and vice versa, regarding OH&S and many other issues. For example: workers expect that the owners will create and provide all necessary measures and equipment for a safe and healthy working environment, and the owners expect that the workers will obey and implement the OH&S measures. The contractors want and expect to work with a company that respects all necessary legal and OH&S standard requirements, which is a very common issue and contract obligation. That also affects when the organization engages subcontractors for the contract to be realized, so the obligations and expectations for OH&S implementation measures are transferred to and expected from the subcontractors as well.
A properly implemented Occupational Health and Safety Management System means establishing operational controls to manage OH&S risks, contributing to the reduction and minimization of risks, as well as increasing awareness about them, in compliance with applicable legal and other requirements.
For more about ISO 45001 risks, read the article What are the new requirements for risks and opportunities according to ISO 45001?
Reduced business costs
How can investments in the health and safety of workers and the working environment contribute to reducing costs in small businesses? The answer is through fewer absences due to sickness, cutting healthcare costs, encouraging the workforce in general to remain active and/or keeping older workers in employment, which directly or indirectly lead to reducing business costs.
Imagine one example: A small business has only a few employees, where even a short absence of a worker can affect the business. How will a longer absence related to any OH&S causes affect the business and the continuity of its processes? It will force the business owners to incur new employment and training costs, and it will decrease productivity and profit-leading to increased business costs and decreased competitiveness.
A properly implemented OH&S Management System and practices create opportunities for the small business to address and treat occupational safety & health issues every time with a standardized, one-way approach that allows a quicker systematical response, rather than resolving the OH&S issues and problems differently each time.
The ISO 45001 standard helps the small business to manage its staff more effectively by defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace. A good OH&S system enhances employees’ commitment to the team / organization as a whole, creating and building a stronger team.
If you are searching for a new team member to increase your small business’s productivity, the article What to look for when hiring an occupational health & safety professional might help you.
Because implementation of OH&S management standard ISO 45001 is voluntary, cooperation of the small business with all interested parties is at the will of the business owners – that is, they commit themselves through an effective OH&S system and the organization to the employees and the wider community. The organization’s activities are closely connected through active cooperation with all identified interested parties, not just those within the business, but external as well. It shows that the business is committed to working within a set of health and safety principles, demonstrating to all stakeholders that the business is socially responsible.
Enhanced and protected brand value and image
By demonstrating that the business is addressing its health and safety obligations, the company protects and enhances its reputation and credibility. It also sends a clear message to the customers that the business is committed to working within a set of health and safety principles. This gives more confidence to the customers and potential clients to start and/or continue cooperation with the company, which leads to increased business competitiveness and building the brand.
Last, but not least – continuous improvement
As an OH&S Management System requirement, continuous improvement is essential in order to improve products, services, and / or processes. Improvement, in the context of a management system, means identifying potential risks and opportunities, initiating plans, and working to become better in its day-to-day activities with the intention being to minimize the potential risks.
By taking action for continuous improvement, even when going step by step, or little by little, small businesses not only improve their products or processes – they also improve their results and strategy, as well as customer, employee, and supplier relationships.
So, when thinking about implementing ISO 45001, don’t hesitate – just do it. It will surely give even more benefits to your small business.
To learn more about the ISO 45001 implementation process, download this free Diagram of ISO 45001 Implementation Process.
About the author:
Kristina Bombas Georgievska is a Chief Administrative Officer and Quality Manager working in the civil engineering industry. She has spent the last 15 years working on implementation and auditing of international standards for quality management, environmental management, and health and safety management, as well as requirements for competence in testing laboratories and certification bodies for products and services. She holds a degree in Economics in Regional and Local Business Development and has more than two decades of professional experience in business administration and management, business and strategic planning, project management, and standards.