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New global standard considered a milestone in creating safer workplaces

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January 31, 2018

Every day around the world, more than 7,600 lives are lost due to work-related incidents and diseases. That’s nearly 2.8 million fatalities a year. To combat this global safety issue, a new safety standard has been approved after five years in the making – ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, spearheaded by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) with support from the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). The voluntary consensus standard provides a framework that can increase employee safety, reduce workplace risks and improve business outcomes worldwide. The first-of-its-kind global consensus model for managing safety and health risks is expected to be published in March. ASSE played a key role in the seven-stage process that began in 2013, serving as the administrator of the U.S. technical advisory group (TAG) to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). According to ISO, 93 percent of its members voted in favor of the new international standard, far above the requirement of a two-thirds majority.

“ISO 45001 is one of the most significant developments in workplace safety over the past 50 years, presenting an opportunity to move the needle on reducing occupational safety and health risks,” said TAG Chair Vic Toy, CSP, CIH. “The goal was to create a widely accepted standard that can produce a highly effective safety and health management system for an increasingly interconnected world, regardless of an organization’s size, location, supply chains or nature of work. It becomes a minimum standard of practice, and a good one at that.” The standard was developed by a committee of occupational safety and health experts who followed a combination of other safety and health management systems such as ANSI/ASSE Z10, OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001, ISO 9001, guidelines from the International Labor Organization, and various national standards. ISO 45001 will replace OHSAS 18001, a British standard that grew to global acceptance. There will be a three-year transition period for registrants.

Many organizations, especially in Europe and Asia, are transitioning to a management-systems approach as a better way to control organizational risk and achieve a measure of corporate social responsibility. That new foundation is ISO 45001, reflecting diverse opinions and methods from around the world on the best ways to construct an occupational safety and health management system. These comprehensive systems help companies combat well-known workplace hazards such as falls, which are a leading cause of on-the-job injuries and deaths. “A significant aspect of ISO 45001 is how it works within an organization to integrate with processes and goals,” Toy said. “Everyone has a role and responsibility in the management system. Safety and health becomes a shared objective, and when done right, the organization greatly benefits from this cohesive way of managing risks.” The multi-year process of establishing a global standard included input from more than 75 countries across six continents. The ultimate outcome will be safer and healthier workplaces across the globe as companies adopt the groundbreaking standard to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

“Better management of risk is needed by businesses in every industry to not only protect their human capital, but to achieve growth and sustainability objectives while improving their bottom line,” said TAG Vice Chair Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CFIOSH, EurOSHM. “ISO 45001 is a tool to help organizations do just that.”

About ASSE – Working together for a safer, stronger future
For more than 100 years, the American Society of Safety Engineers has been at the forefront of helping occupational safety and health professionals protect people and property. The nonprofit society is based in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. Its global membership of over 37,000 professionals covers every industry, developing safety and health management plans that prevent deaths, injuries and illnesses. ASSE advances its members and the safety profession through education, advocacy, standards development and a professional community. Its flagship publication, Professional Safety, is a longtime leader in the field. Visit www.asse.org

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