The ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) standard was published in March 2018, replacing the OHSAS 18001:2007 OHSMS standard. Publication of this new standard is part of a broader effort by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to update and align all of the specification standards for the management of Environmental, Energy, Health and Safety, and Quality (EEHSQ).

The objective of the ISO 45001 effort was to implement an international OHSMS standard to replace OHSAS 18001, a British Standard developed by a coalition of registrars and used internationally. It includes structural changes in accordance with a model that is affecting all new ISO standards, addressing broader national and international OHS elements, and ensuring adherence to the basic principles of OHSAS 18001 (which include continual improvement). The timeframe for transition to the ISO 45001 standard is three years from its date of issuance.

This article is the first in a series that provides a brief overview of the new OHSMS standard and focuses on implementation considerations for some of the key changes that have been incorporated. Governance is the focus of this article, which considers Context of the Organization and Leadership. Future articles will consider risk and opportunity, OHS objectives, operational control (including management of change and procurement), communication, and management review.

Overview of the New OHSMS Standard

The new ISO 45001 standard encompasses two types of changes from the OHSAS 18001 standard. The first change involves a new organizational structure that is being implemented for all ISO management system standards. ISO developed Annex SL - a framework for a generic management system and the blueprint for all new and revised management system standards. The revised versions of the ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 standards and the new ISO 45001 standard are organized in accordance with this new structure. A Plan-Do-Check-Act model is retained in the new structure for all management system standards, with the clauses organized to facilitate implementation of an integrated management system. This new high-level structure is illustrated in Table 1.

ISO45001_Table 1

An overview of the new Annex SL elements and how they are being incorporated into the ISO 45001:2018 standard is provided below.

  • Context of the Organization - Addresses organizational context and OHS MS scope, with an emphasis on needs/expectations of workers and other interested parties;
  • Leadership - Represents management commitment, policy, roles/responsibilities and authorities, and worker participation, with an emphasis on responsibility and accountability among the management team;
  • Planning - Addresses hazards and risks, legal and other obligations, and developing risk/opportunity actions and target setting, with a focus on tangible outcomes and results;
  • Support - Represents resources, competence, awareness, communications, and documented information, with a focus on Identifying stakeholder needs and expectations and improving outreach to address stakeholder needs;
  • Operation - Addresses operational planning/control and emergency preparedness/response, with increased emphasis on management of change and procurement;
  • Performance Evaluation - Addresses performance monitoring, measuring, analysis, and evaluation with an internal audit and management review; and
  • Improvement - Deals with nonconformance/corrective actions and reiterating the requirement for continual improvement.

Focus on Governance

Any business management system needs to have effective governance. This ensures that the business is conducted as planned and that compliance, risk management, and performance are adequately addressed. Without this, an enterprise would be operating in more of an ad hoc manner, with performance achievement occurring by chance. Two of the provisions of the new OHSMS standard speak to this: Context and Leadership.

Context of the Organization

This clause in the standard addresses the basis for the interaction between the organization's key OHS conditions, external issues, and internal conditions, and is crucial to determining the functionalities, scope, and goals of the OHSMS. It also is critical to establishing one basis for the scope of the OHSMS. External issues and internal conditions that may be considered in determining context are listed in Table 2.

Table 2. Potential Elements of the ISO 45001 Context of the Organization

ISO45001_Table 2

A starting point for analyzing context would typically involve developing a comprehensive list of applicable OHS and related business issues including but not limited to accident-incident reporting, chemical safety, disaster recovery, emergency response, process and product safety, site evacuation, training, and many others. For those issues that are relevant, it is important to consider and identify supplier, facility, and customer concerns that may affect context.

An additional dimension is included through requirements to address the needs and expectations of workers and other interested parties. While consideration of workers' roles in an effective OHSMS is integral to the OHSAS 18001 standard, consideration of other interested parties raises the bar on OHS and OHSMS performance. These 'needs and expectations' can be mandatory or voluntary, and can fundamentally affect the scope of the OHSMS, potential hazards/risks, other regulatory requirements, and communication with these interested parties. Figure 1 illustrates the potential span of influence for other interested parties (i.e., stakeholders).

Figure 1. ISO 45001 Management System Potential Stakeholders

ISO45001_Fig 1

This analysis can be a daunting task if stakeholder considerations have not been considered or assessed in the past. One can evaluate this stakeholder dimension by considering the following for each of the OHS-related challenges:

  • Are stakeholders affected by the driver/issue?
  • Is the driver/issue already a potential problem area?
  • Can it be leveraged for beneficial effect (e.g., innovation)?
  • Does it offer a potential competitive advantage?
  • How important is it to stakeholders?

Ranking these considerations by individual stakeholder or stakeholder group can identify priority considerations and stakeholders, their needs and expectations, and the scope of the OHSMS.


Committed leadership is essential to achieve effective enterprise governance and should not be limited to an OHS management representative or top management participation in an annual management review. Top management must demonstrate consistent leadership and commitment with respect to the OHSMS by taking overall responsibility and accountability, and active participating in all pivotal aspects of the OHSMS, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: ISO 45001 OHS-MS Leadership Participation

ISO45001_Fig 2

Ways in which leadership commitment can be demonstrated include strategies to raise visibility around OHS throughout corporate business management, such as:

  • OHS is included in strategic and business planning;
  • Business/facility performance objectives include OHS-related key performance indicators;
  • OHS is integrated into enterprise risk management;
  • Integrating OHS (and other) MS explicitly into monthly or quarterly business/facility operational meetings; and
  • OHS is consistently addressed in outreach to, and interaction with stakeholders (e.g. employees regulators, community).

As, effective governance is essential to any successful business enterprise, it is the foundation on which an effective OHSMS must be built.

Trinity Consultants supports organizations in developing management systems and preparing for certification to EEHSQ-related ISO standards, including the new ISO 45001 standard. For assistance, please contact John Fillo at