So it’s finally here…or is it? In a few short months (ahem…we have heard that before!), the ISO standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems will be the long awaited (and much feared in some cases) ISO 45001.
There will be more EHS Managers talking about migration than there will be swallows migrating to “The Med”.
There is such enormous scepticism around whether you can even apply an international standard to OHSM that this dilemma is likely to run for some time. You will have focus groups and steering committees, there will be executive implementation teams and six sigma huddles, but the one thing you are guaranteed of is that there will be one hell of a commotion!
Of course there will always be those companies that will be seen as “innovators”. Those that are always first to adopt to new processes and procedures. I call these the “corona muralis”; those that without fear or fortune are the very first ones over the wall. This can be an expensive position to take and while it may very well give you some competitive advantage in certain markets, very few companies will want to be the first ones to be worn down by gunfire. Only 5% of businesses take this position. They typically have the firepower and financial clout to back it up but can also bury it if it doesn’t work out.
Then of course we have the “Early Adopters” and probably the companies that I have most respect for. They learn from the mistakes of the man that jumped over the wall without question. They are more cautious, find out as much information as they can, establish if its right for them and then move. There is still risk involved for sure but a calculated risk and significant benefits to be achieved by moving early. There are probably between 10% and 15% of companies in this position and typically they will be seen as “steady, but go getting” type organisations.
Then we have the majority of businesses, some would say almost 60% of companies fit into this category. They are comfortable with the concepts and feel that they will be loosing out unless they adapt. Costs tend to be much lower and typically they are indigenous type organisations.
Then we have the laggards… (what!! what!!!, I said laggards!!!!). Typically another circa 15% of businesses that need to be brought kicking and screaming into the real world. “We’ve always done it this way so why change. Go ‘way would ya!”
So clearly the harmonisation of EN standards for safety products is a good thing because it gives you comfort in the provenance of what you are buying and it also of course allows you to compare “like for like” from a procurement perspective. Applying cultural and regional differences to a management process is much more complicated, but of course it has been done before.
At this stage the proposed ISO 45001 has been diluted so much that I have to wonder will it really take off or will it just be another Y2K (in other words a whole lotta cost and hassle for absolutely nothing!). Personally I would like to see the dozens of varying international standards synchronised and harmonised but I would hate it (in fact scrap that I would detest it) if it turned into another money making exercise for auditors in much the same way as ISO for Quality Management did all those years ago.
The concepts of ISO 45001 are very good but it will take years for it to have any significant industry effect. Third party certification can only help to reduce injuries and fatalities but if it turns into a big book, gathering dust on the shelf then “I’m an EHS Manager get me outta here!”
It will be interesting to see what companies fall into the innovators, the early adopters, the majority or the laggards categories. Whatever category you fall into, either way you should be informing yourself of ISO 45001 so that you can make an informed judgement as to what impact it may have on your working environment and even your job.
Dulann is a provider of technology-enabled learning solutions for many of the world’s leading organisations. Services include Product & Process Simulations, Contractor Inductions & Employee Onboarding, Mandatory & Commercial Training, Contractor Management & Learning Management Systems.
About Damian Donlon.
Damian is a Non Executive, Senior Consultant, Interim Manager and Talent Adviser with specialist experience in the Construction & Technology sectors. Please feel free to contact him directly on 0879218616 for a confidential conversation.