Making the Case for Health and Safety with ISO 45001

The new ISO 45001 standard for occupational health and safety (OH&S), published in March 2018 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), specifies requirements for an OH&S management system. It offers guidance to enable organizations to provide safe and healthy workplaces by preventing work-related injury and ill health.

For OH&S leaders looking to drive the adoption of the new standard throughout their workplaces, it is important to understand the goals and motivations of their business leaders. In many organizations, executive-level concerns include:

  • legal
  • social/ethical
  • financial
  • organizational resilience
  • protecting workers from harm
  • financial loss from production, replacing equipment and labour, management time, reputation, orders, worker morale, penalties and insurance premiums.

Traditionally, most OH&S professionals have made the case for improved corporate health and safety conditions to management by using accident data, legal compliance and/or costs of failings. But the movement toward Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is today a more powerful lever. Increasingly, organizations are being scrutinized by those outside their walls, not only by regulators, but more by the public at large. And it is in response to public pressure that organizations feel responsibility and responsiveness. There is a move from wealth generation without accountability to business success with moral/ethical and legal values. The public and others want integrity and honesty, and for organizations to provide this, they need to be transparent.

The growing presence of CSR within the global corporate environment can be seen in some very significant ways. One need look no further than Wall Street itself and the influential Dow Jones Index. It is weighted based on free-float market capitalization, and changes are made every September based on updated sustainability scores. Each company represented in the index has its corporate sustainability assessed through an intricate weighting system that looks at economic, environmental and social metrics. Candidate firms are further assessed based on media and stakeholder commentary and industry-specific criteria. Companies are re-evaluated each year; those that fail to show consistent progress may be removed from the index.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is an international, independent standards organization that helps businesses, governments and other organizations understand and communicate their impacts on such issues as climate change, human rights and corruption. GRI has, over the past 20 years, become an important agent for corporate performance reporting. It has increasing support from global organizations. Originally, it started as purely as a means of reporting but now it produces sector reporting standards. It has now added OH&S with a specific reference to ISO 45001. So it is fair to say we are at the start of an initiative which will increasingly drive interest and uptake of specific OHSMSs.

The Real Business Drivers

Compliance to ISO 45001 allows businesses to meet many of the key drivers that management is continually looking for improvement around. These include:

  • Globalization. ISO 45001 puts the organization in an elite category of business which will be internationally recognized.
  • Improved business performance by reducing workplace illness and injury costs, which will result in increased productivity.
  • Creating consistency and establishing “best practices” for occupational health and safety throughout the organization.
  • Improved identification of hazards and risk.
  • Demonstrating effective loss control to attract lower insurance premiums.

Other benefits the organization can realize include direct ones, such as:

  • lower insurance premiums
  • lower litigation costs
  • lower sick pay costs
  • lower accident costs
  • increased production

and other indirect benefits, including:

  • lower staff turnover and absenteeism
  • improved corporate image
  • increased job satisfaction
  • less product and material damage.

This quote from 80 years ago is more true about the modern business environment than that which existed all those years ago:

“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”

Adherence to the standards laid out in ISO 45001 will go a long way to ensuring businesses do not have to deal with those consequences.


Learn more about ISO 45001 by watching our on-demand webinar.

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A survey about ISO 45001 conducted along with the above webinar yielded the following results:

Do you feel you have a good understanding of how ISO 45001 can improve your health and safety program?

Yes: 36.2%; No: 63.8% (141 votes)

Have you been able to successfully articulate the benefits of ISO 45001 to your executives?

Yes: 11.7%; No: 88.3% (137 votes)


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