ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety

by Jonathan Hunt,Nikhil Unnikrishnan published on April 22, 2020

The author of this article, Nikhil Unnikrishnan, is a Certified Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma Methodologies (CLSSGB) and also a Certified Quality Process Analyst (CQPA). He is an Exemplar Global certified Lead Auditor for IATF 16949:2016. Mr. Unnikrishnan has extensive experience working on engineering development and management of research-based prototype off-road buggies and hybrid power vehicles leading some of them from concept to prototype build and terrain testing.

What is ISO 45001?

ISO 45001:2018 is the Occupational Health and Safety standard under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) system of standards aimed to help organizations improve their employee safety, reduce workplace risks and create better, safer working conditions. Revision of the earlier standard, OHSAS 18001 that was released in 2007 began in March 2013 and came to fruition only in 2018. To bring the occupational health and safety standard under the ISO umbrella has been a long-standing effort by various international bodies since the early 90s. Although the targeted date was for Oct 2016, the overwhelming response with more than 3000 comments included significant concerns from ILO. After resolving these comments, ISO formally released the ISO 45001:2018 standard in March 2018. Omnex is one of the first premier training organizations to offer ISO 45001 training and consulting services globally.

How is ISO 45001 different from OHSAS 18001?

One of the greatest improvements across the ISO management system standards in recent times is the adoption of the High-Level Structure (HLS). Through the adoption of the Plan-Do-Check-Act framework (also known as Shewhart cycle or Deming Cycle), the ISO 45001 occupational health and safety standard can be easily integrated into your existing Management systems like ISO 9001:2015 or ISO 14001:2015 with much greater ease. If your organization does not already follow the requirements laid out by any such standard yet, then the Implementation of ISO 45001 can serve as a foundation for future implementation of such standards.

The major change to ISO 45001 starts with how the OH&S standard is implemented in the organization’s context. Another significant change is the direct reference of the ownership of the OH&S under the organization’s ‘top management. While consultation and participation of workers existed in the OHSAS 18001 standard, the definition of workers was broadened to include others such as contractors who perform work onsite. ISO 45001 also lays out requirements to evaluate how outsourced activities under the organization’s control are controlled. Through periodic reviews and evaluation of compliance mandated in the standard, it helps the organization meet the various legal obligations pertaining to the jurisdiction it belongs to. This will help address specific OH&S specific laws that may apply to the organization. Again, other key areas such as risk management, awareness, communication, emergency preparedness, and continual improvement can easily be integrated with other standards such as the ISO 9001 Quality Management System or the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System. The informative annex behind the standard also provides useful guidelines to the subscribing organization on how to tailor the requirements to the organization’s processes.

What are the benefits of ISO 45001 certification?

For any organization, its people are its greatest resource. Executive leadership of companies that understand this embrace the opportunities to improve health and safety at the workplace and continuously improve this aspect. This helps in not only attracting top talent but also retaining them. Poor health and safety management contributes to 4% of global GDP. This translates to lost revenue for organizations through direct costs such as:

  • death and injury compensation
  • medical treatment costs for injuries
  • increased corporate insurance premiums
  • fines from regulatory bodies

And indirect costs such as:

  • lost productivity
  • re-hiring costs
  • re-training costs

This comes back to Toyota’s QCDS philosophy focused on the 4 key metrics of organizations: Quality, Cost, Delivery, and Safety. Not addressing health and safety risks lead to a direct impact on your Safety and Cost metrics and indirect influence on your Quality and Delivery as well.

Who should certify to ISO 45001?

Unlike some of the industry-specific standards such as the IATF 16949:2016 for the automotive or the AS9100D for the aerospace sector, ISO 45001:2018 is a global standard that can be appropriately implemented and certified by organizations belonging to all sectors. Following the requirements of ISO 45001 and certification to the standard helps the organization to effectively implement a management system that helps prevent work-related injuries or ill health and further bolsters its commitment to providing a safe and risk-free work environment to its workers and other stakeholders such as customers, shareholders, local governing bodies and more.


Nikhil Unnikrishnan

Nikhil Unnikrishnan is a Consultant with a broad range of experience, involved in the design & development of hardware, software and mechanical systems and components. He has worked with organizations to analyze process deficiencies and drive improvement by implementing best-in-class practices conforming to internationally recognized standards such as Automotive SPICE®, ISO 26262 Functional Safety, ISO 9001 & IATF 16949 Quality Management Systems. Nikhil has been involved with performing detailed documentation reviews, Automotive SPICE®, Functional Safety & QMS assessments, process documentation development and conducting roll-outs for numerous leading automotive organizations including multiple Software and Hardware systems. Mr. Unnikrishnan is a Certified Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma Methodologies (CLSSGB) and also Certified Quality Process Analyst (CQPA). He is an Exemplar Global certified Lead Auditor for IATF 16949:2016 and ISO 9001:2015.