What is a Safety Management System? The ISO 45001 Standard Explained

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Published on: May 29, 2024

Ensuring workplace safety and fostering a culture of health and wellbeing is paramount for organisations of any size or industry. This is where ISO 45001:2018, the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Management Systems Standard, steps in, providing a robust framework for managing and preventing work-related injuries and illnesses.

Every year, millions of workers worldwide face the risk of occupational accidents and illnesses, resulting in a staggering number of fatalities and injuries. According to the United Nations Global Compact, an alarming 2.78 million workers lose their lives due to work-related accidents or diseases annually, with an additional 374 million experiencing non-fatal accidents. These statistics highlight the pressing need for effective measures to prevent workplace hazards and protect employee wellbeing.

Understanding What is a Safety Management System

The ISO 45001:2018 Standard was developed in response to these challenges. Also known as the Work Health and Safety (WHS) standard (more common in Australia), ISO 45001 offers a comprehensive management system framework designed to mitigate risks and promote a healthy and safe working environment, taking proactive action to prevent harm to workers and enhance overall workplace safety.

In this article, you will understand:

What is a Safety Management System?

A Safety Management System (SMS) is a comprehensive and systematic approach to managing workplace safety and health. It encompasses a set of policies, procedures, processes, and best practices designed to identify, assess, control, and mitigate risks associated with occupational hazards. The primary goal of a SMS is to prevent accidents, injuries, and illnesses in the workplace by fostering a culture of safety and proactive risk management.

At its core, a SMS involves establishing organisational structures and responsibilities to ensure that safety remains a top priority at all levels of the organisation. This includes clear communication channels, defined roles and responsibilities, and mechanisms for employee involvement and participation in safety-related activities.

ISO 45001 is designed to be adaptable to organisations of any size, type, or industry, enabling them to take effective preventive actions to promote a safe and healthy workplace while also effectively addressing legal and ethical concerns.

Did you know?
All ISO Management System Standards are an actual document developed by ISO detailing the standard’s clauses and requirements. We highly recommend that you purchase your chosen standard(s) document, to fully understand the requirements for successful implementation and audit results. Visit Standards Australia to search for and purchase a copy of your chosen standard(s).

What are the benefits of ISO 45001?

From employees to managers, business owners and external suppliers, implementing and achieving Certification to ISO 45001:2018 brings numerous benefits for all stakeholders involved. These benefits extend far beyond compliance, positively impacting various areas of the organisation, including:

  • Improved Productivity: Reduced downtime and better process efficiency contribute to increased productivity.
  • Cost Reductions: Fewer incidents and preventive safety measures lead to decreased costs.
  • Decreased Absenteeism and Staff Turnover: As a result of clear processes and responsibilities and a safer workplace environment.
  • Competitive Advantage: ISO 45001 Certification meets contract and tender requirements in some industries and promotes international trade, by enabling you to reach new markets that require Certification.
  • Improved Brand Image: Certification demonstrates a commitment to health and safety, enhancing brand reputation.
  • Ongoing Safety Performance Improvement: Systematic processes enable continual evaluation of OHS/WHS risks and opportunities for improvement.
  • Lower Insurance Premiums: Some industries may enjoy reduced insurance premiums due to improved safety practices and the Certification that confirms it.
  • Enhanced Legal Compliance: Reducing the risk exposure of top management and appointed Company Officers.
It’s worth noting that “ISO 45001” is the number of the standard, and “:2018” is the year that the latest version was published, and that’s why ISO Standards have these two numbers combined. You can check when the latest version of the standard was published by looking at the year that succeeded the number of the standard, as in ISO 45001:2018. Learn more about all the benefits and requirements of ISO 45001 and how it relates to previous versions here.
what is safety management system and ISO 45001:2018

Understand the Requirements of a Safety Management System

Safety Management System (SMS) is a holistic approach to managing the safety of an organisation’s workplace. Key elements of a SMS, as required by ISO 45001, include:

Strategic Direction

Establishing organisational goals and objectives related to OHS/WHS. A SMS isn’t an isolated process, but an essential component of the overall business operations. Identifying obstacles to meeting safety objectives and understanding stakeholder’s expectations in relation to health and safety are part of this.

Leadership and Workers Participation

Demonstrating leadership commitment and involving workers in decision-making processes is crucial for fostering worker participation. Transparent communication and allocation of suitable resources to bolster the health and safety culture are also important elements here.

Risk Assessment

Identifying, assessing, and controlling workplace hazards and risks is at the heart of a robust SMS. The risk assessment entails hazard identification, rating the significance of the associated risks, planning and implementing control measures, ensuring adherence to legal requirements, and monitoring the effectiveness of the implemented controls.

Resources and Support

The organisation must allocate resources for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and improving the Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS), including human, infrastructure, and financial support. This ensures managers and employees have the necessary information and resources to consistently meet the ISO 45001 requirements.

Embark on Improvement Opportunities

In addition to risk assessments, businesses should proactively seek opportunities to enhance their Safety Management System (SMS) performance. These must also take into account how planned and unplanned changes can impact the business’ OHS management system.

Performance Evaluation

Regular evaluation of the effectiveness of the OHS Management System is crucial for improvement and risk control. This includes internal audits and management reviews with clear processes to ensure effectiveness. The evaluations should assess staff consultation, risk and hazard identification, planning, achievement of objectives, and operational risk control.

Who needs ISO 45001 Certification?

ISO 45001:2018 Certification is beneficial for all organisations committed to ensuring their employees and stakeholders’ health, safety, and well-being. Whether operating in high-risk sectors like construction and manufacturing, or low-risk areas such as offices and retail, businesses of all sizes and industries can enjoy the benefits listed above.

By complying with relevant health and safety regulations, reducing operational disruptions, and enhancing productivity, businesses can protect their employees and enhance their reputation in the marketplace.

Expert Tip

Unlike some other ISO Management System Standards, ISO 45001 doesn’t currently have a comprehensive “family of standards”. However, recently, three additional standards have been released as guidelines to supplement an organisation’s health and safety management:

These are guidelines only to support the implementation of a WHS/OHS Management System, while the ISO 45001:2018 is the “certifiable” requirements standard. Hence, a business will not be able to get certified to any of the standards listed above. Nevertheless, these guidelines can help you have a more comprehensive approach to OHS.

The ISO 45001:2018 Standard is a powerful tool for businesses seeking to enhance workplace safety, drive operational efficiency, and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. By implementing a robust safety management system, organisations can protect their most valuable asset — their employees and clients — while also elevating their brand reputation and market competitiveness beyond legal requirements.

Implementing ISO 45001 requires a structured approach tailored to the unique needs and resources of each business. At ISO Certification Experts, our team of experienced professionals have helped hundreds of businesses achieve and maintain their Certifications.

Call us now on 1300 614 007, or book your online FREE Strategy Session to discuss a tailored solution for your business or solve any questions about the ISO Standards and the Certification Process.

About the author

Andressa (alias Andy) is the General Manager of ISO Certification Experts and ICExperts Academy, heading our Marketing department and coordinating the internal improvement initiatives and projects. With an MBA in Project Management, and over 10 years of experience in customer service and project management across many industries, she brings valuable knowledge to the business and our operations. Alongside her professional expertise, Andressa holds a genuine passion for sustainability and the environment.

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