ISO 45001: Your All-In-One Guide

What is ISO 45001?

A framework for developing, managing, and improving occupational health and safety (OH&S) management systems. 

It sets the minimum standard of practice to protect all parties interacting with the organization. The goal is to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses while promoting a safe and healthy working environment.

ISO 45001 is a globally recognized and accepted standard. It is built upon OHSAS 18001 and other ISO standards. 

Implementing this ISO is not mandatory. However, it provides a competitive benefit by demonstrating to interested parties that you care about worker safety.

Why switch from OHSAS 18001?

ISO 45001 is an improvement over its predecessor. It emphasizes a top-down safety strategy, with leadership as a critical component of the OH&S management system.

Since 2021, ISO 45001 has become the primary international OHS management standard. You will no longer be deemed to have an approved OH&S management system if you do not move to the new ISO standard.

What is the difference?

ISO 45001 offers a risk-based, proactive strategy. It focuses on regularly reviewing your company’s operations for OH&S concerns. Hazards are identified early on, and possibilities for improvement are identified. It has more effective preventative and protective measures to eliminate or minimize safety hazards. Documentation of all OH&S processes is vital to establishing ISO 45001.

OHSAS 18001 takes a reactive approach. It is a static, procedure-based system that focuses on risks and hazard control. It ignores other work parties like contractors and suppliers affected by the OH&S management system. 

In simpler words, ISO 45001 assesses and manages lead indicators, preventing incidents before they occur. Meanwhile, OHSAS 18001 is a lag indicator which evaluates and manages incidents after they have occurred.  

Benefits of ISO 45001

  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced workplace incidents
  • Maximizes operational efficiency
  • Reduced downtime and disruption costs

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What are the significant changes in ISO 45001?

  • Annex SL Structure – Streamlines integration of ISO into existing OH&S mgmt. system
  • Organizational Context – Monitoring of OH&S from a business perspective
  • Top Management – Responsible and accountable for taking an active leadership role
  • Documentation – Records must be kept of the entire OH&S process
  • Other Parties – Interested parties must follow the organization’s OH&S mgmt. system
  • Objectives – Increased focus on creating and evaluating objectives

Structure of ISO 45001

  1. Scope
  2. Normative References
  3. Terms and Definitions
  4. Context of the Organizations
  5. Leadership and Worker Protection
  6. Planning 
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance Evaluation
  10. Improvement

Implementation Model: Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) 

ISO 45001 uses the concept of PDCA to continually improve OH&S processes. 

Plan: Recognize and Assess – Risks, Opportunities, Objectives, and Processes

Do: Implementation of the plan

Check: Monitor and Measure the activities and processes implemented

Act: Continually improve the OH&S management system

Important Clauses

** Keep in mind that all the risks, opportunities, objectives, policies, etc. are referred from a health and safety perspective**

Documentation should be kept concerning all actions taken for the below clauses

Clause 4 – Context of the Organization

Think about your organization from a macro perspective. Many internal and external forces can impact your organization’s occupational health and safety – for example, worker competence, leadership, policies, legislative requirements, suppliers, trends in the industry, competitors, etc. 

By understanding the factors that affect your organization’s health and safety needs, you can create an effective OH&S management system.  

Clause 5 – Leadership and Worker Participation

The organization’s leadership must establish employee policies, objectives, roles, and duties.

Top Management

The people at the highest level of your organization have a duty to support the creation and implementation of an effective OH&S management system. By top management, we are referring to the CEO, CFO, VP, and other members of upper management. 

These people are responsible for assigning relevant roles and communicating with all levels of the organization. Some of their other duties are:

  • Promoting continual improvement
  • Protecting workers from reprisals
  • Communicating the importance of effective OH&S management
  • Developing an organizational culture that supports the OH&S management system
  • Taking responsibility for preventing worker injuries and keeping the workplace safe
  • Creating OH&S policies and objectives that align with the organization’s strategic direction
  • Making resources available to establish, maintain, implement, and improve the OH&S management system

Worker Participation

Workers’ participation is crucial to developing a successful H&S improvement process. This is why you must make sure that your employees understand that it is okay to make mistakes. They need to be confident that they can report any incident without fear of reprisals. 

For example, if a warehouse worker makes a mistake, their first thought is usually not, “I should report this to management.” Most of the time, they keep quiet and hope nobody notices because they fear the consequences.

It is up to you to instill the confidence needed for workers to come forward and actively participate in making their workplace safer. Worker needs must be considered before creating OH&S policies and objectives. To improve worker participation, the organization should:

  • Provide time, training, and resources 
  • Provide timely access to transparent, understandable, and relevant information about the OH&S management system
  • Remove/Minimize obstacles or barriers to participation 
  • Ensure continual improvement


Clause 6 – Planning

After understanding how your organization functions, you must create a plan for implementing a successful health and safety management system. 

Identify the risks, opportunities, hazards, and legal requirements applicable to the OH&S management system. Continually assess the operational processes and proactively monitor your OH&S processes.

Hazard Identification

A few hazards that you should be aware of are:

  • Organizational culture
  • Social factors (workload, bullying, workplace violence)
  • Physical condition of the workplace (Infrastructure, Equipment, Materials)
  • Past accidents and potential emergencies
  • People who have access to the workplace, are in its vicinity, etc.

Clause 7 – Support

Your organization must provide the resources necessary for creating, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the OH&S management system.

Communicate with the organization about the processes needed for employees within the organization and other stakeholders like suppliers and contractors.

Workers are an essential component of the OH&S management system. Your workers must be competent. You must provide them with the training and education necessary to ensure their competence.

Make your employees aware of the following:

  • OH&S policies and objectives, 
  • The benefits of an improved OH&S mgmt. system
  • Implications and consequences of not conforming to the OH&S requirements
  • Hazards and risks that are relevant to them


Clause 8 – Operations

Implement and control the processes needed to achieve your OH&S management system. Eliminate or minimize the hazards you discovered in Clause 6 by using the hierarchy of controls:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering
  • Administrative
  • Personal Protective Equipment


When buying goods from a supplier, ensure that their standards for health and safety match your standards.


You are responsible for what happens to any third-party contractors working on the site. Identify hazards, assess risks, implement controls, and evaluate the process. You are responsible for ensuring that contractors adhere to your OH&S management system. 


When outsourcing operations and processes to other organizations, ensure that they comply with the requirements of your OH&S management system. For example, imagine you outsourced your accounting needs to a company that abuses its employees. This would not align with the goal of your OH&S objectives and policies. It reflects poorly on your company. 

Emergency Response Planning   

Preparing for unexpected events should be a part of your OH&S management system. You must establish and maintain processes for responding to emergencies. Provide training to employees, perform periodic tests, and communicate with visitors and contractors about your safety response process.

For example, when I worked at Amazon, as part of training, they showed us the location of the first aid department, where to park industrial vehicles in case of emergencies, and a structurally strong pillar that we needed to gather at in case of a tornado.


Clause 9 – Performance Evaluation

As part of performance evaluation, make sure that you are conducting frequent internal audits and taking action to address nonconformities. Figure out what needs to be measured and monitored to evaluate the effectiveness of your OH&S management system. Ask these questions:

  • What are the legal requirements? Are we in compliance?
  • Is the process of identifying hazards, risks, and opportunities working as expected?
  • Are we achieving the objectives that were planned out in Clause 6?
  • What should we measure our OH&S system against?
  • Is documentation being kept on all H&S-related matters?

Top management must review your OH&S management system to see if it is adequate and effective. They need to check:

  • If policies and objectives have been met
  • Relevant external and internal issues
  • Evaluation of OH&S performance
  • Adequate resources are being provided
  • Information is communicated to all interested parties
  • Opportunities for continual improvement


Clause 10 – Improvement

To improve your OH&S management system, there must be a reporting, investigation, and corrective action process. When incidents occur, you must be prepared to take action promptly to control and correct them. Make continual changes to your OH&S management system as required.


**Implementation of the IOS 45001 does not guarantee the prevention of work-related injuries**

Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational purposes and was summarized from ISO 45001:2018. Please consult with a professional for verification on the subject matter before application.