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ISO 45001 - Section 5: Leadership

19 March 2018
Following on from the publication of the new health and safety standard, we thought it would be useful to discuss the importance of leadership in ISO 45001:2018.
Leadership is more than management – it requires active involvement in the effective implementation of the system and its requirements. The culture of an organization is defined by the leadership.

The new standard has identified key requirements for leadership which include the policy, resources, roles and responsibilities with communication / consultation and participation of workers at its core. The leadership requirements touch on every other requirement within the standard.

Top management leadership is also linked to other levels of leadership throughout the organization over which they have control, but top management will ultimately be accountable. Changes in the leadership can impact on the direction and strategy of the organization, its internal structure, resources and processes as well as the system effectiveness.

Workers (including non-managerial) will need to be part of the activities and involved in the system processes ie; the fulfilment of legal and other requirements, establishing the policy, assignment of roles and responsibilities, establishing objectives and plans to achieve them, identification and controls for risk and opportunities. Note, these are just a few examples.

The engagement and participation of workers at all levels is fundamental to the success of the system. Workers must know that the policy applies to them and is not just a statement without meaning.

How can you protect workers if they haven’t been part of the process or been given information to understand what is trying to be achieved and why things may need to done in a particular way. Only through committed leadership can this be implemented.

Leadership may be at supervisory / team leader level – they themselves may need support to ensure that worker protection is of primary importance – not just production volumes or performance targets. Within the standard there is a requirement to integrate the OHS system in to the organizations business process – not just an add-on or after thought.

Lines of communication and consultation must be established and implemented. This may include a statutory requirement, worker representatives (union representative as applicable) and others. Some forms of communication will be informal (direct discussion on an ad-hoc basis) and others more formal (suggestion / hazard notification) processes.

Every organization will be different and unique – you may be similar in the type of organization you are or the processes you use, but you will have a unique blend of workers, strategies, resources, interested parties and requirements that set you apart from others – your leadership must recognise these elements and use them reduce risk and take advantage of the opportunities to continually improve the performance of the OHS system.

There is nothing worse than investigating an incident and then during the investigation a number of workers state ‘Yes – we have become tired of reporting this, as nothing ever happens’ or ‘Yes – this happens on a regular or frequent basis and nothing changes!’. Good leadership can prevent this type of culture developing and can directly and positively improve performance across the organization.

We all would like to think that workers are going home as healthy and well as when they started work that day (and if possible, better informed and aware of their contribution) to the wellbeing of the workplace .

As always – NQA is here to help and support our current and future clients. If you are considering the migration or establishing ISO 45001 within your organization – we can provide support in the form of a Gap Analysis and/or technical information. Get in touch with a member of the team.