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Trade deal negotiations between the USA, the Pacific Rim and Europe and the talks of the standardisation of regulatory controls have abruptly halted and are unlikely to be resumed in the current climate. Does Brexit and America First mean an end to the need for global standards like OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001?
The OHSAS series
The Occupational Health and Safety Assessment series (OHSAS), published in 1999, consisted of two specifications: 18001 provided requirements for an occupational health and safety management system and 18002 existed as the implementation guidelines.
In 2005, approximately 16,000 organisations were using the 18001 series in over 80 countries; by 2009 more than 116 countries were operating under the OHSAS series or its equivalent, with 54,000 certificates being issued to compliant organisations.
The standards provided coherent guidelines to help employers manage and control health and safety risks to achieve a healthy working environment, reduce the risk of accidents, aid legal compliance and improve overall performance.
Despite the OHSAS series helping to maintain health and safety strategies in many workplaces, some countries still did not comply and instead, followed their own regulations, causing inconsistencies worldwide.
To achieve consistency and ensure health and safety standards were being met internationally, the International Standards Community, including the US, sought guidance from the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to publish a truly global standard: ISO 45001.
Enhancing stability and ensuring cross-cultural compliance, the new standard groups all relevant regulations to all 65 participating countries.
Some experts believe that ISO 45001 could be too prescriptive a standard to follow, causing unrest amongst organisations and nations lacking the human and financial resources to comply with a universal health and safety strategy or manage legal problems effectively.
In the first draft of the standard, 3,000 comments were made resulting in insufficient votes to proceed. It begs the question, why is there reluctance to embrace a global standard? Failure to comply with the requirements could blacklist organisations, contractors and sub-contractors from undertaking any Federal Government contracts.
Publication of ISO 45001 could be as early as November 2017, depending on the approvals of the final draft. Implementing this on a global scale will undoubtedly bring a host of challenges, with the aforementioned barriers including lack of resources and finances to rectify issues.
Here, technology can come to the rescue and combat these issues. Smartphones and ‘the Cloud’ are among the methods that organisations are already using to implement environmental and occupational health systems to ensure relevant standards are met.
These affordable tools applied in the workplace provide businesses with real time data insights that otherwise would be difficult to maintain, meaning improvements can be made across processes, boosting employee morale, health and productivity.
It enables employers to instantly understand and manage the working environment their workforce is operating in, monitoring exposure levels and ensuring they are offering a healthy working environment.
We are experiencing a period of tumultuous change, making the future of ISO 45001 and the implications of other global standards unknown at this point.
This uncertainty could make the implementation process even more daunting for organisations. Amidst the uncertainty, technology is available as the tool for businesses lacking suitable resources to implement such strategies, providing quick results and education for employers and workforces.
Irrespective of the organisation’s size, technology can help businesses follow the same global standards by providing instant, accessible information – even in a climate dominated by uncertainty.
Tim Turney is a Product Manager at Casella
This article was originally published on SHP Online