Industry Articles

Raising the Bar for Health and Safety in Workplace

1183_1Chronic diseases and conditions are on the rise worldwide. An ageing population, an expansion in the urban middle class and the lifestyle changes urbanisation brings are contributing to chronic diseases, the leading cause of death around the world.

According to Singapore’s Ministry of Health, cancer, pneumonia, Ischaemic heart diseases and stroke are the top four causes of death, while hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes and acute upper respiratory tract infection are among the top four conditions for polyclinic visits.

Given the importance of health to our well-being, the ISO has dedicated significant resources towards developing standards on health. In its extensive standards’ portfolio are more than 1,300 international standards covering the broad spectrum on health, from public health and medical devices to health informatics and traditional medicine. More are being developed.

How can standards on health possibly benefit us, you may wonder?

For the industry, health standards ensure consistency. Healthcare providers, national governments and manufacturers benefit from not having to comply with multiple specifications and requirements for different markets.

For consumers, ISO standards can safeguard consumer interests by ensuring good quality care and safe and reliable products and services.

At a time of escalating healthcare costs, the ISO is developing a new series of standards targeted at helping organisations reduce the costs of health facilities.

Said Lee Webster, secretary of ISO/TC 304, a healthcare organisation management, “Healthcare organisations account for around 10% to 20% of the world’s GDP, and the lack of standardisation in their organisation management practices means there is room for improvement, particularly across international boundaries.

“A new series of standards in development will help to reduce waste, improve data transparency and improve interdisciplinary cooperation, resulting in better healthcare at lower costs. What’s more, recent research suggests patient satisfaction and outcomes are also improved in well-managed healthcare environments. So everyone wins.”

ISO 45001 – Game Changer for Millions of Workers
One of the most anticipated standards, the ISO 45001:2018, Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) management systems was published in March 2018. As the world’s first international standard dealing with health and safety at work, it is designed to help organisations of all sizes and industries reduce workplace injuries and illnesses around the world.

Based on 2017 calculations by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 2.78 million workers a year or almost 7,700 persons a day die from work-related diseases or injuries. Another 374 million suffer non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses, many of these resulting in extended absences from work.

The ISO 45001 hopes to change that. It provides governmental agencies, industry and other affected stakeholders with effective, useable guidance for improving worker safety in countries around the world. By means of an easy-to-use framework, it can be applied to both captive and partner factories and production facilities, regardless of their location.

David Smith, chair of project committee ISO/PC 283 that developed the ISO 45001, believes the new standard will be a real game changer for millions of workers: “It is hoped that ISO 45001 will lead to a major transformation in workplace practices and reduce the tragic toll of work-related accidents and illnesses across the globe.”

More than 70 countries were directly involved in the development of this important document, with the British Standards Institution serving as the committee secretariat.

While it draws on OHSAS 18001 – the British Standard which served as the former benchmark for OH&S – the ISO 45001 is said to be a new and distinct standard, not a revision or an update.

What are the major differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001?
“There are many differences, but the main change is that ISO 45001 concentrates on the interaction between an organisation and its business environment while OHSAS 18001 was focused on managing OH&S hazards and other internal issues,” Kristian Glaesel, convenor of the ISO/PC 283 working group, and Charles Corrie, secretary of ISO/PC 283, Occupational Health and Safety management systems, wrote in response to queries by ISO magazine, the ISO Focus.

The standards also diverge in many other ways:
• ISO 45001 is process-based – OHSAS 18001 is procedure-based
• ISO 45001 is dynamic in all clauses – OHSAS 18001 is not
• ISO 45001 considers both risks and opportunities – OHSAS 18001 deals exclusively with risks
• ISO 45001 includes the views of interested parties – OHSAS 18001 does not

“These points represent a significant shift in the way health and safety management is perceived. OH&S is no longer treated as a ‘stand alone’, but must be viewed within the perspective of running a sound and sustainable organisation. That being said, although the two standards differ in their approach, a management system established in accordance with OHSAS 18001 will be a solid platform for migrating to ISO 45001,”
Mr Glaesel and Mr Corrie added.

Companies with the OHSAS 18001 certification are given three years to migrate to the new standard. The International Accreditation Forum has developed the migration requirements to help certified organisations, certification bodies, accreditation bodies and other interested parties prepare for the switch.