The COVID-19 pandemic has refocused attention on the importance of implementing and maintaining good health and safety processes. How can ISO 45001 help organizations to realize an effective occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system, and the impact COVID-19 has had on its implementation.
ISO 45001 is the world’s first harmonized standard for implementing an effective OH&S management system. Released by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in March 2018, its goal is a reduction in occupational injuries and disease, while also promoting better physical and mental health. It also promotes a stronger focus on organizational context and risk-based thinking.
Based on the concept of Plan – Do – Check – Act (PDCA), ISO 45001 improves OH&S performance by:
ISO 45001 is based on the Annex SL format, making it compatible with leading industry standards, such as ISO 9001 – Quality Management System – and ISO 14001 – Environmental Management System.
It replaces the widely used OHSAS 18001:2007 standard, with businesses initially being given a three-year period, until March 30, 2021, to migrate to ISO 45001:2018.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to businesses all over the world. Lockdowns and travel restrictions have severely impacted the ability of certification bodies to perform on-site audits for organizations looking to complete their migration to ISO 45001 before the March 2021 deadline.
In April 2020, the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) addressed this problem by announcing a six-month migration period extension, with a new deadline of September 30, 2021. The IAF also reiterated that, in certain circumstances, it was possible to complete a full certification audit remotely, if all the requirements for the specific scheme “can be evaluated remotely, including observation of activities.”
While the deadline extension has given organizations a respite during the pandemic, it has not removed the need for audits. The solution is remote auditing. Conducted either partially or completely off-site, these allow the auditor to perform their duties while also conforming to social distancing rules. The audit contains all the same elements as an on-site audit, the only difference is that they are conducted remotely using suitable technology.
During the procedure, the auditor will require access to key personnel and top management. In addition, when the auditor needs to see relevant documents, such as internal audit records and plans, complaints and corrections logs, or core processes documents, these could be emailed or showed to the auditors through other means IT communications tools, such as Skype, Teams, etc.
In ISO 45001, observation of a client´s activities (processes, facilities, etc) must be performed through a site tour. To allow this during a remote audit, the organization being audited must assign a person to walk around the facility with a mobile camera or webcam, so the auditor can direct this person to the focus areas and activities he need to audit. This requires good internet connectivity throughout the facility. It is also important that key personnel are adequately trained in the functionalities of the system being used.
Even though normally, Stage 2 Audits must be completed on-site due to the current situation, a full remote audit can be performed if it can be clearly demonstrated that all the necessary objectives and audit activities, including the observation of a client´s activities (processes, facilities, etc.) can adequately be completed remotely by the use of the necessary Information & Telecom Technology (ICT) Tools. And in this case, a previous risk analysis must be performed and documented by the Lead Auditor.
Certification to ISO 45001 provides an organization with several benefits. Firstly, it creates confidence in an organization’s OHSMS, something that will be key as countries and companies begin the process of leaving lockdown. Secondly, by focusing on risk mitigation, it will reduce accident rates and incidence of ill health. This will have a positive financial impact in terms of reduced disruption costs, less downtime from negative events, lower insurance premiums, and a reduction in worker turnover rates. Finally, as we continue to fight COVID-19 and stakeholders look for assurance that an organization is effectively managing its OH&S, ISO 45001 certification helps companies build a better reputation.
SGS was involved in the development of ISO 45001 and is ideally positioned to help organizations around the world transition from OHSAS 18001. Utilizing a global network of experts, our range of services includes:
In addition, SGS’s technical experts can assist organizations with the selection of appropriate online technology to permit remote auditing. QIIQ is a remote auditing app that directly connects the auditor with key personnel. It allows direct interaction and real-time sharing of information. Utilizing QiiQ will allow organizations to complete their migration to ISO 45001, thereby mitigation disruption to their management systems, while complying with social distancing requirements. Alternatively, other web conferencing applications can be used, if required.
Learn more about SGS ISO 45001 Services.