"[ISO 45001] is the future of safety," Ed Foulke, Fisher Phillips partner, told a packed room of attendees at the 2019 Safety Leadership Conference in Dallas.
The new international standard is going to be the basis for all safety management systems implemented globally, not because companies want to, but because customers will demand it.
The delicate dance between safety and the bottom line is finally coming to an end as the new standard directs top management of companies to implement systems company-wide.
"We wanted to take the safety profession and get them to the C-suite," Foulke, who worked on the ISO 45001 committee, explained.
With ISO 45001, responsibility for safety is not tasked to a specific person such as a safety director. It does not specify performance criteria or mandate a specific system design, which means companies are able to use current frameworks to build a more robust, effective system.
So, why should a company care about the new international standard? Because ISO 45001 assesses risks beforehand, rather than working backward after an injury has already occurred. In addition, safety leadership from all levels is required to make the model work. With this involvement, safety professionals now are able to prove return on investment (ROI) to top-level executives.
"This will allow companies to go from good to great to world-class," Foulke said. "There's not way you're not going to get there because it is a continuous improvement model."
The global economy will be impacted as companies work to become ISO 45001 certified. Because there is now a single set of standards that can be understood on a global scale, domestic and international trade has the potential to improve. Global supply networks will be able to use this certification as a selling point to obtain new contracts and business relationships and meet the requirements of existing clients.
In addition, ISO 45001 replacing OHSA’S 18001 in March 2021. European governments already have a jumpstart on the new international standard. As foreign-owned companies direct its American plants to reach ISO 45001 certification, other vendors, suppliers and contractors will be pushed to comply.
"In the context of the organization, it will tell what we do, why do we live, what do we produce, and that will drive how we address risk," Steve Davis lead consultant, Fisher Phillips Safety Solutions. "The management team and workers are involved in writing and implementing all of the procedures. This is not new. This is a quality management system."
Publicly-traded companies should be interested in ISO 45001 from a public relations and sustainability perspective as well. The positive impact on corporate culture includes a transformation from correction-mode to prevention mode. ISO 45001 allows for improved management oversight, addition of a measurable Key Performance Indicator (KPI), demonstration of due diligence and demonstrations of achieving key initiatives in continuous improvement.
Overall, cost benefits of ISO 45001 include:
- Lower probability of potential civil and criminal liability
- Creation of new tools to provide significant ROI
- Positive impact on corporate culture
- Improved production and quality
- Increased profitability resulting in enhanced competitiveness
- Increased ability to meet legal and regulatory requirements and avoid governmental penalties
Lastly, ISO45001 allows companies to demonstrate in writing and in practice their commitment to the welfare of workers and the community. It will allow for improved efficiency and consistency of internal operations. In addition, companies seeking certification will see an increase in productivity and improved quality while achieving operational excellence.
"If we build a system that is clean and efficient enough, it will run itself. In fact, the employees will run it," Davis said. "If safety and risk is managed well, it becomes a non-issue."