The long-awaited ISO 45001, the new global standard in occupational health and safety, was finally published last week after more than four years in development. But as organisations begin to make moves to become accredited to the standard, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has doubled-down on its October 2017 warning against rash implementation (related article).
The ACCI says organisations should wait for a decision from Standards Australia before moving to adopt the new international standard because there remains “a number of outstanding issues that need to be addressed”. Australian Chamber CEO, James Pearson, said many of these issues related to addressing any potential unintended consequences of the standard conflicting with existing Australian legislation.
ACCI Associate Director Work Health and Safety, Jennifer Low, echoed this sentiment. “The devil is in the detail and Standards Australia hasn’t yet had the opportunity to evaluate the final version of ISO 45001 against the existing AS 4801 standard and within the context of our legislative and business environment.”
“Given the number of issues we have identified, we don’t believe that it is possible at this point in time for Australia to adopt ISO 45001 as is.”
“Consideration must, therefore, be given to alternatives such as modifying ISO 45001 to suit the local context, developing accompanying guidance for ISO 45001 implementation in Australia or modifying AS 4801 to incorporate desirable aspects of the international standard to align where possible.”
However, Safety Institute of Australia CEO, David Clarke, said there were no big surprises in the final publication of ISO 45001, and “no new large-scale risks for Australian employers.”
“Firstly, international standards are written in the broad context that it is understood that different laws apply from country to country, so this is rarely a significant matter. Secondly, as a voluntary standard, it should not cause too much angst within industry.”
Mr Clarke said it was persistent media attention that had set expectations very high, and that as a result, the standard “may not initially meet those expectations.”
“Not all of our recommendations were adopted in the development of the standard, and although we were happy to play a role in strengthening some elements of the standard, we will continue our work on the Australian panel to identify ongoing areas for improvement.”
ISO 45001 requires the continual assessment of risk and focuses on strong leadership from the top, along with worker participation. The standard expects health and safety matters to be integrated within the entire organisation from the boardroom down, rather than relying solely on the health and safety manager.