What are the new requirements for risks and opportunities according to ISO 45001?

With the release of ISO 45001:2018, there are new requirements for assessing risks and opportunities in the Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OHSMS). So, how does this differ from the previous requirements for assessing hazards and risks in OHSAS 18001, and are these requirements still in the standard? In short, these requirements in ISO 45001 cover two different types of risk for the individual processes and for the overall OH&SMS, and both assessments are needed for a good OH&SMS.

What is required for hazards and risks?

The previously existing requirements in the OHSAS 18001:2007 standard were quite simply written, even though the task was rather large. In brief, for all of your activities, processes and work areas, you must identify what hazards exist for the occupational health and safety of all involved (including contractors and visitors). Once these hazards were identified, you would then identify what risks exist for the hazards and what controls you needed to put in place to mitigate the risks present.

For example, if you had a large machine, you might identify that there is a pinch point hazard when the machine was running. The risk of this pinch point could be injury to any worker, contractor or visitor who put their hand in the way of the machine while it was running. To mitigate this risk, you could put a guard in place to prevent hands from entering the pinch point and have a lock-out/tag-out procedure to ensure that the machine could not run without the guard in place during maintenance.

The requirements to assess risks of the processes are still part of the planning for the OHSMS. Controlling the risk from your processes is an important part of ensuring the health and safety of people within your facilities. As the backbone of the OHSMS, this assessment of the hazards and risks posed by the organization’s activities is still a critical part of what is needed to improve occupational health & safety performance.

What do you need to consider with new conditions for assessing the risks and opportunities?

Along with the above requirements, there are new conditions for assessing the risks and opportunities of the overall Occupational Health & Safety Management System. These new requirements come from the standard ISO format for all management systems, called Annex SL. This format includes the assessment of the context of the organization with respect to the purpose of the management system, including the internal and external issues that affect it. The next step in the standard is to identify all of the interested parties for your management system, and what their needs and expectations are.

Finally, taking these issues, interested parties and expectations into account, the company must assess what risks and opportunities exist for the company with respect to the management system. For the OH&SMS this means the risks and opportunities that could affect the company’s ability to enhance OH&S performance, fulfill compliance obligations and achieve OH&S objectives. Many companies have a strategic planning function which addresses these requirements of the standard. If you have more than one management system in place (such as a quality management system or environmental management system), this same process can be used for all of them.

For instance, as part of your ongoing assessment of legal requirements, you may have learned that there is an upcoming change in the law that will make it illegal to use a certain cancer-causing chemical that is needed for creating your product. As this is the case, you have an opportunity to make changes to your product that allow you to find a replacement chemical that is less hazardous to the occupational health & safety of your workforce. There is also a risk that the replacement chemical is actually more hazardous to the people who need to use it. It is these risks and opportunities that you will need to address.

Likewise, if you identify that a company is introducing a new type of machine guard that will make it much easier to prevent accidents you may start investigating how this could be incorporated into your machinery ahead of the government approval for the product. You would not install the new guard, but instead start the process so that it could be more quickly implemented once the approval for the guard was granted.

Risk and Opportunity assessment: An important part of OH&SMS

Any company that has implemented an Occupational Health & Safety Management System knows that the assessment of risk, and the management of the controls to address risk, is critical for managing occupational health & safety. Assessment of risks and determining what needs to be done about them has always been a part of the OH&SMS, and this has not changed. The only real change is to include an additional focus for the important task of risk assessment, and the assessment of opportunities that can be pursued to benefit your company, which can help you with OH&S improvement.

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