Why ISO 45001 is a safety revolution

I introduced our last b.SAFE@Brathay Safety Culture Event (held at Brathay Hall in Cumbria) by saying that there is a quiet revolution taking place in the field of health and safety with the advent of ISO 45001. ISO 45001 is the new international safety standard that replaces OHSAS 18001. The new standard is designed to change the position of EHS from one of being ‘bolted on’ to the business to it being ‘built-in’ to organisational systems. This shift in focus represents a real opportunity for cultural change.

Key differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001

A look at some of the key differences between the two standards might help to explain why. ISO 45001 includes:

  • Understanding the cultural context of the organisation and what drives it
  • Recognising the needs and expectations of stakeholders – neither of these two have an equivalent in OHSAS 18001
  • Changing focus from ‘management’ to ‘leadership’ and from ‘ensuring’ to ‘engaging’
  • Increasing worker participation, engagement and consultation
  • Moving from procedure and records to ‘documented information’
  • Considering the objective and result of communication, not just who, when and what *

These changes have the potential to be what’s known in the field of organisational development (OD) as ‘second order changes’ – change that can transform organisations.

Transformational change

Not all change that takes place in organisations is the same. A useful way of thinking about the differences is as First and Second Order Changes


First order change is evolutionary – incremental, linear, doing more or less of what’s already done, making minor changes and adjustments that enable things to be done better or faster and not really changing anything fundamental about the beliefs, values or ways of working of the organisation. It’s adaptive and incremental – an example might be refining existing processes and procedures, or finding new ways to collect or report data, or reminding people about correct PPE. It’s about regaining balance – the homeostasis of the system.

Second order change is revolutionary – it’s not about doing the same thing faster or better but doing something different. It’s transformational not incremental, requiring unlearning and relearning, and it both enables and requires people to think, feel and behave differently to how they did before. Second order change includes cultural change and an example might be, well, any of the differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001:

  • Understanding and embedding EHS as part of the wider organisational and stakeholder system;
  • a shift in focus and style from management to leadership
  • engagement and participation rather than policing
  • accountability for the effectiveness of internal and external communications

Are all changes that have the potential to transform the safety culture of an organisation.

Why behaviour change initiatives usually fail

Most behaviour change initiatives fail because the type of change required is misdiagnosed. Most culture change initiatives fail because the wider implications of the changes required aren’t fully understood or accommodated. What’s needed at this point is not just someone with expertise in health and safety. What’s also needed is an understanding of organisational development.

Organisational development and safety

Organisational development is a field which includes:

  • Managing planned change, in a flexible manner that can be revised as new information is gathered.
  • Not just creating change but reinforcing it 
  • Applying changes in the strategy, structure, and/or processes of an entire system, such as an organisation, a single plant of a multi-plant firm, a department or work group, or individual role or job.
  • Improving organisational effectiveness by:
    • helping members of the organisation to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to solve problems by involving them in the change process, and
    • by promoting high performance including financial returns, high quality products and services, high productivity, continuous improvement and a high quality of working life. CIPD OD Factsheet

Helping your organisation make the change

Beehive is perfectly placed to help organisations make the changes to mindset, skills and tools needed to transition to ISO 45001 because we understand the organisational side of things. We know what needs to change in the behaiours, and structures – we have associates who ca audit your organisation so you can plan your transition. If you have certification to OHSAS 18001 you will have a window of three years to migrate to ISO 45001 to maintain the validity of certification (see NQA Information re 45001). And because ISO 45001 represents an opportunity for cultural rather than simply procedural change, the sooner the change begins the more likely you are to gain the greatest benefits.

This is the first of a series of articles in which I’ll consider each of the differences between the two standards from an organisational development perspective. The next article will be ‘Safety SySTERMS – what drives culture’.

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For more information about our next Safety Culture Event at Brathay on March 29th 2019 please email info@beecld.co.uk

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*The NQA ISO 45001 Health and Safety Briefing outlines the key differences between the two standards. The differences outlined above relate to points:

  • 4.1 – Understanding your organisation and its context – what drives your culture? 
  • 4.2 – Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties – engaging with stakeholders
  • 5.1 – Leadership and commitment – changing from ‘management’ to ‘leadership’, and from ‘ensuring’ to ‘engaging’
  • 5.2 & 5.4 – OH&S policy & Participation and consultation – increasing (or introducing?) worker participation and engagement
  • 7.2 & 7.5 – Competence & Documented information – a move from ‘procedure’ to ‘documented evidence’
  • 7.4 – Information and communication – considering not just the who, what and when of communication but the objective and the result of it


Author: bsafebuzz

Sara Lodge is co-director, along with Mark Sykes, of Beehive Coaching and Leadership Development Ltd and b.SAFE Safety Culture, an organisational development consultancy specialising in behaviour change and safety culture.

3 thoughts on “Why ISO 45001 is a safety revolution”

  1. ISO 45001 standard replacing the OHSAS 18001:2007. ISO 45001 is a globally recognized standard, its is Reduce risk and promote Occupational Health and Safety Management System and requirements of the health and labor protection system of an organization.

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