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It’s time to brush up on your knowledge of the ISO 45001 clauses.

Not made the leap from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 yet? The time to act is now. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed back the transition deadline to 30th September 2021, and it’s unlikely any further delays will be implemented.

And even if you’ve never been accredited to OHSAS 18001 in the first place, ISO 45001 can still be a powerful addition to your management system that is worth considering.

We’ll be looking at why ISO 45001 is so important – and how to start navigating your way to compliance.

Why you should embrace ISO 45001 compliance

Before we dive into your ISO 45001 compliance journey, it’s worth exploring why it’s so crucial businesses embrace the new ISO 45001 standards.

Firstly, neglecting accreditation or letting your old OHSAS accreditation lapse leaves your business without a formalised and demonstrable approach to guaranteeing the health and safety of your employees. That in turn introduces your business to:


Employee accidents aren’t just bad in themselves. Reputational damage, morale dips and potential legal action are all tangible risks which can spring from suboptimal health and safety management.


Insurance premium increases, fines, compensation payments and lost time can rapidly stack up with any health and safety incident. Robust health and safety therefore makes financial sense as well as being as a key way to manage your risk environment.

Business as usual

Not necessarily a bad thing – your organisation may not experience significant health and safety risk, and you may be satisfied with how many accidents and near-misses you currently experience each year. But letting your ways of working stagnate and fix could invite problems in the future.

In contrast, ISO 45001 accreditation forces your business to commit to continuous improvement and to an ethical culture of physical and mental wellbeing that detects and stamps out risks as they emerge.

10 benefits of getting accredited

1. Build a reputation as a caring, responsible employer, improving your access to new talent

2. Turn health and safety from a tickbox compliance exercise into a core component of your company culture supported by everyone

3. Scrutinise your occupational risks and take targeted action

4. Slice your overall operational costs

5. Boost employee morale and efficiency while cutting turnover

6. Minimise bad publicity and reputational damage

7. Make a happy, zero-harm environment a real operational goal

8. Prove your quality: robust health and safety supported by top management usually accompanies strong management of your broader business too

9. Leverage new processes and technology you might otherwise have neglected

10. Pinpoint opportunities for continuous improvement

The key changes with ISO 45001 requirements

The clauses with the biggest impact moving from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 are the Continual Improvement, Leadership and Context of the Organisation clauses.

Clause 3.37 - Continual Improvement:

Continuous means without interruption, a constant, persistent and relentless stream. Whereas, continual is when the same action or event is repeated frequently, sustained and ongoing.

It’s not feasible for a business to be continuously improving, there must be room for evaluation, reflection and implementation of changes. Continual improvement is for the long term. No organisation can get better every second of its existence. The best organisations make improvements in steps and allow time to learn from failure or use success to spur the team on.

Clause 4 – Context of the Organisation:

The organisation must understand the internal and external issues that can impact positively or negatively on its health and safety performance. This includes organisational culture and structure, and the external environment including cultural, social, political, legal, financial, technological, economic, market competition and natural factors of significance to its performance.

Internal factors are elements that you have full control over such as policies and objectives and supply chain to name a few. However, looking at external factors that are out with the organisation’s control, a common model used to outline and identify these factors is PESTEL (Political Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal). The factors identified through the PESTEL model can then be analysed through a SWOT analysis to ensure that all Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats are fully explored.

It is important for an organisation to fully understand the forces that can, and will, inevitability have an impact on the organisation. This could be anything from the weather interfering with a delivery or causing a potential incident onsite, to a potential political factor such as the impact Brexit may have on their trade.

By identifying these risks, threats and weaknesses, you can take a proactive approach to mitigating risk.

iso 45001 pestel analysis


Clause 5.1 - Leadership:

This clause provides guidance on how the organisation demonstrates leadership and commitment to taking overall responsibility and accountability for the protection of workers with work-related health and safety. This relates to the occupational, health and safety management system, and how it ensures adequate worker participation in its development, implementation and improvement.

Health and safety professionals are LEADERS - you need to LEAD your senior management and leaders through this clause and beyond. Getting buy-in from the board can sometimes be difficult but getting the message across showing the clear benefits of transitioning is key. Looking at it from a board perspective, I would far rather have full visibility, and this is a clear opportunity to make this happen.

This is a major change that stops leaders delegating responsibility. They must lead by example. Health and safety professionals used to be kept awake at night with overwhelming feelings of responsibility under OSHAS 18001. This should no longer be the case under the new ISO 45001 requirements.

The fact is leaders must play their role! This is a great opportunity for internal engagement, educating, coaching them and working as a team. ISO 45001 is everyone’s standard.

Where are you now?

Well, you’re likely on one of these three journeys:

navigating your way through iso 45001 clauses

Is it essential to achieve ISO 45001? No. But it will take your business to the next level of occupational, health and safety (OHS) as an employer, supplier and competitor.

ISO 45001:2018’s introduction of Annex SL should make it easier for organisations to integrate their OHS management system with other management system standards (MSS) including ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001. The Annex SL framework was developed in 2013 and sets out the same high-level structure (HLS), text and terms and definitions for all new and revised ISO management system standards.

This means that the framework is the same for all ISO standards – the hard work is done!

With a greater emphasis on worker participation, the trick is to lead, drive and ‘own’ the process and at the same time empower everyone to engage with it.

There is also an explicit requirement to link health and safety to your business strategy and proving that is the case.

So, what can you do?

With a manual system, you can still navigate your way through the ISO 45001 clauses and get them embedded in your organisation, but it is a lot harder. Embracing the latest health and safety management technology will help ease the pressure and build a supporting health and safety culture which underpins and strengthens your compliance. Electronic occupational, health and safety management systems help organisations to be proactive rather than reactive.

So, what is ISO 45001? In a nutshell, it is an international standard for health and safety at work that will replace OHSAS 18001 in 30th September 2021. We have highlighted the ISO 45001 clauses that will have the biggest impact moving from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 and in our free white paper we delve deeper into how you can prepare for the new standard.

What is ISO 45001 and how can you prepare for it?

Find out how to prepare your system to comply with ISO 45001 in time for the deadline on the 30th September 2021.

Download now
Ideagen's Jane Murdoch
Written by

Jane Murdoch

Jane has worked in Safety, Risk and Quality for 16 years supporting and delivering management systems across the globe. She is passionate about software making a difference, helping businesses improve their reporting culture, ensuring the affects form the basis of a continuous improvement programme. Jane is currently Chair for SCoS (Scottish Chamber of Safety), working with HSE and SCoS to support the delivery of the HSE strategy.

Her work with Business Leaders across the globe, implementing a solution that not only helps achieve their ISO Standards, but helps drive change, delivers a management system that provides uniformity across their business, saves time and makes them more efficient.