New International Standard for Occupational Health and Safety

The International Organisation for Standardisation has recently published a new International Standard ISO 45001:  “Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use” (“the Standard”).

The Standard does not replace any of the current Australian standards with respect to OH&S, and certification with the International Organisation for Standardisation is not compulsory. However, the Standard is a useful guide to implementing and maintaining a formal OH&S management system in any organisation.

Of particular note in the Standard is the defined term of “competence”, the reference to the “hierarchy of control”, and the requirements in respect of procurement (ie, procurement of products and services, or engagement of contractors).

Competence

Throughout the Standard the “competence” of workers (so far as the OH&S performance is affected) is referred to. The Standard defines competence as the “ability to apply knowledge and skills to achieve intended results” and, for instance, an organisation is required to ensure that their workers are ‘competent’ and that they have received the appropriate education or training, or have the necessary experience required. This ‘competence’ includes that required to fulfil the inherent requirements of the worker’s role, as well as competence in respect of the requirements of the OH&S management system, and identification of hazards and OH&S risks.

The concept of determining “competence” particularly has implications when hiring contractors, as organisations are required to verify that any contractors they engage are “competent”. This may result in organisations undergoing a more thorough and involved process when engaging contractors.

Hierarchy of control

The Standard adopts the “hierarchy of control” to eliminate hazards and reduce OH&S risks which is to be established and maintained. The “hierarchy” is defined in the standard as:

  1. eliminate the hazard;
  2. substitute with less hazardous processes, operations, materials or equipment;
  3. use engineering controls and reorganisation of work;
  4. use administrative controls, including training;
  5. use adequate personal protective equipment.

The “controls” are listed in order of most to least effective, and it is this “hierarchy” which is to be followed in order to eliminate and reduce OH&S risks.

Importantly, “top management” (defined in the Standard as being the person or group of people who “direct and control” the organisation, so presumably directors and/or top level managers) are required to “establish, implement and maintain an OH&S policy that includes a commitment to eliminate hazards and reduce OH&S risks”. This means that the “top management” of an organisation is required to consider and incorporate the “hierarchy of control” into the organisation’s OH&S policies.

Procurement

The Standard requires organisations to “establish, implement and maintain a process to control the procurement of products and services in order to ensure their conformity to its OH&S management system.” This includes eliminating hazards and reducing OH&S risks with respect to, for instance, hazardous or raw materials before they are introduced into the workplace, or having equipment intended for use by employees properly delivered, tested and installed, with necessary precautions or protective measures properly communicated.

Further to this, the Standard requires organisations to “identify hazards and to assess and control the OH&S risks” associated with contractors. This means that any contractors (and their employees) are required to comply with the OH&S management system of the organisation.

Organisations that wish to be accredited to the Standard should consider ensuring that persons responsible for the procurement of products and/or services have been provided with sufficient training with respect to the organisation’s OH&S management system to ensure that the organisation can meet this requirement.

In any event, as businesses are increasingly dealing with globalised supply chains and doing business online (rather than in person) specific expertise in procurement is gaining increasing importance.

If you would like more information in relation to the Standard and how certification might impact your legal obligations, please contact us for advice and assistance.

For more information, please contact:
Patrick Walsh

Patrick Walsh
Director
p.  +61 8 8124 1941
e.  Email me

This communication provides general information which is current as at the time of production. The information contained in this communication does not constitute advice and should not be relied upon as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Should you wish to discuss any matter raised in this report, or what it means for you, your business or your clients' businesses, please feel free to contact us.

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