Reducing Risk, Protecting People

ISO 45001: Implications for Workplaces – and Parallels with Product Safety

Posted by Clarion Safety Systems | 7th Dec 2018

ISO 45001

What Is ISO 45001?
Many organizations are moving to a management systems approach to better handle workplace risks and improve corporate social responsibility to safety. After a five-year standards-writing process and collaboration by more than 75 countries, in March 2018, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 45001, the first global standard for occupational health and safety management systems . It gives organizations in the U.S. and around the world a structure to plan, support, implement and evaluate their efforts to eliminate or reduce risks to workers.

ISO 45001’s Scope for Workplace Safety
Efforts were made to align ISO 45001 with a combination of other safety and health management systems – includingANSI/ASSE Z10, OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. This integration allows organizations to efficiently integrate its requirements into their existing management systems. As an international consensus standard, ISO is designed to work for a variety of organizations, located in countries large and small, with both sophisticated and emerging economies. It doesn’t lay out a prescriptive set of actions that must be taken to improve occupational health and safety. Instead, it gives organizations of all sizes a framework to plan and implement an ongoing process – a system – to successfully manage risk and improve safety.

The Far Reaches of a Management Systems Approach to Safety
It’s interesting to note that the management systems approach to safety can be applied to facilities and worksites as well as to products. After all, a systems mentality to creating a safety program is a major component of equipment and worksite safety. It’s important to look at the safety of products holistically and on an ongoing basis – both across their lifecycle and in terms of all the products a company manufactures. In the same vein, facility safety using an ISO 45001 methodology is an ongoing, continuous process to set benchmarks and make improvements.

Common Thread: Risk Communication
While it’s a given that ISO 45001 has important implications for workplace safety professionals, including those related to best practice safety sign systems , there are parallels to product safety, like the one above. Another is the foundational element of risk assessment to identify potential hazards and control actions related to them. There are a number of statements made throughout ISO 45001 about the need to inform, communicate, and increase awareness of hazards and risks; communicating about residual risk is a key part of an ISO 45001-based safety management system.

According to ISO 45001, the hierarchy of controls is to be used by organizations to eliminate or reduce risks to workers. While the hierarchy of controls is not a new concept for facility or product safety, looking at the hierarchy itself as a system and not a series of standalone controls is an emphasis we may begin to see in workplaces. Many product safety professionals recognize that following the hierarchy of controls does not necessarily equate to making choices in order to implement a single measure of control. A more effective way to reduce risks that can’t be eliminated or substituted is often to layer multiple controls – and that’s a mentality that may begin to be more widely embraced in workplaces enacting a systems approach to safety.

Product Safety Example: A Machinery Crush Hazard
As an example, think about a machine that has moving parts, creating a crush hazard. The hazard can’t be eliminated so the manufacturer installed a guard on the machine and placed a crush and entanglement hazard label on the guard that has a message like, “Crush hazard. Do not operate with guard removed. Lockout/tagout before servicing.” The equipment manufacturer has taken three actions related to the hierarchy of controls to mitigate this risk associated with their machine:

  • Installed a guard
  • Warned about the hazard
  • Instructed how to avoid the hazard

The Workplace Safety Perspective
Think about this same example from the perspective of the safety professional looking to mitigate the risk of a crush hazard from a machine in their workplace. They can do the following:

  • Create a procedure to 1) inspect equipment on each shift to make sure the machine’s guards are in place and 2) inspect the machine monthly to make sure its warning labels are intact and legible
  • Implement safety training for all machine operators and maintenance personnel who may interact with the hazard, instructing them on how to safely service the equipment
  • Install a facility safety sign that instructs people on how to safely lockout/tagout the equipment as a means to reinforce the safety training that has taken place. Additional PPE reinforcement signs could be installed to communicate about the need to wear proper personal protective equipment when working with the machine.

Reinforcement to Increase Awareness of Residual Risk
In both of these examples, using the hierarchy of controls doesn’t place limitations on implementing a single technique in the hierarchy. For the crush hazard at hand that couldn’t be eliminated or substituted, the last three techniques in the hierarchy of controls – engineering controls, administrative controls and PPE – were used in combination to support one another. As a type of administrative control, product safety labels and facility safety signs reinforced the other risk reduction techniques in use in order to increase awareness of residual risks.

To learn more about ISO 45001 and what it means for the big picture of safety and risk communication, read Clarion’s ‘On Your Mark’ column in InCompliance magazine .

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