Does ISO 45001 support a strong safety culture?
Getting the support of senior management and leadership is key to creating a strong safety culture, according to a representative from the British Standards Institution (BSI).
Speaking at Safety & Health Expo 2019 in London, Principal Consultant Quentin Dunstan said while the ISO 45001 standard is a “robust statement of best practice”, it does not do much on its own.
ISO 45001 was launched in March 2018 and sets out to provide a robust and effective set of processes for improving work safety in global supply chains and is also the world’s first International Standard for occupational health and safety.
Speaking at the event, Mr Dunstan said the general benefits of adopting the standard include improve reducing risk through being proactive.
“If you have the standard in place, it makes people pay attention,” said Mr Dunstan.
“It ensures that legal and regulatory compliances are being met. It helps you reduce business losses, because there are also fines or losses if people avoid paying attention.”
He added ISO 45001 also helps with brand responsibility and “shows you are taking things seriously”.
But on the question of whether it supports a strong safety culture, Mr Dunstand said it “depends” on a number of other factors, including whether an organisation’s leadership is on board.
He said it also depends on whether staff are properly trained and understand what is expected, whether the correct processes are in place and if the end product is safe.
“Shared purposes have to go right the way through the organisation – not just the people at the sharp end of the action, but the right the way to the top,” he told the event.
“Because if [the people at] the top do not enshrine those shared purposes, then the lower levels of an organisation quickly become out of step, and take short cuts.
“Culture also stems from leadership,” he added. “Leadership has a direct impact on vision and purpose, resource management and reputational risk. If you think of problems that organisations have, was it the leadership not clearly setting out what their expectations were and people having attitudes that were different from what the leadership expected?”
Mr Dunstan added he believes there are 10 elements of creating a safety model in an organisation.
“Management commitment and visibility are really important,” he explained. “If the management do not support it, it will quickly be short-cutted, particularly on shop floors. I’ve run two factories in my time and unless you pay attention to it, it quickly slips.
“If you go around lots of factories you can tell what the environment is like very quickly, simply by the discipline and behaviour that takes place.”
Mr Dunstan added that there also has to be a dialogue between managers and workers to make all of this work. He added organisations need to ensure they have a whistle-blowing policy in place, and two-way communication between workers and senior managers.
“Participation has to be formalised. It cannot be an ad hoc process,” he told the event.
“When firms are under pressure to get things out of the door quickly are you cutting corners? Things happen. It has to be a learning organisation with the opportunity to pass learning and knowledge on.
He added that staff also need to have time to spend on safety and warned that disgruntled employees need to be spotted, because “things can go wrong”.
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The last six months have seen some major publications in health and safety, not least the long awaited ISO 45001 with a promise of transforming workplace practices globally. Discover more about this ‘game changing’ standard and what else has been happening in the safety industry from a legislation standing point to ensure you are not a laggard on the topic.
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