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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has approved a new standard: ISO 45001.

The intent of this new standard is to improve workplace safety across the globe. It provides the framework for businesses to reduce risk and increase the overall health and safety of employees.

ISO 45001 is a voluntary consensus model. Businesses can choose whether they wish to follow the recommendations outlined in the standard. ISO 45001 was developed with support from industry experts and existing agencies, such as the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

According to an excerpt from EHS Today, ASSE states that ISO 45001 aims to “encourage safer and healthier workplaces globally as companies adopt the groundbreaking standard to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”

“The goal was to create a widely accepted standard,” said Vic Toy, U.S. technical advisory group chair, “that can produce a highly effective safety and health management system for an increasingly interconnected world, regardless of an organization’s size, location, supply chains or nature of work. It becomes a minimum standard of practice, and a good one at that.”

From an international perspective, more than 75 countries had input on the development of the standard.

In order to approve a new ISO standard, a two-thirds majority vote is needed from its members. 93% voted in favor of ISO 45001. Clearly, its members agree that reform is needed for workplace safety.

And with 2.8 million workplace fatalities across the globe every year, it’s not hard to see why.

Toy continues, saying that “ISO 45001 is one of the most significant developments in workplace safety over the past 50 years, presenting an opportunity to move the needle on reducing occupational safety and health risks.”

“Better management of risk is needed by businesses in every industry,” says Kathy A. Seabrook, TAG vice chair.

“A significant aspect of ISO 45001 is how it works within an organization to integrate with processes and goals,” Toy said. “Everyone has a role and responsibility in the management system. Safety and health becomes a shared objective, and when done right, the organization greatly benefits from this cohesive way of managing risks.”

But again, it’s up to employers to decide if ISO 45001 is something they will implement. Of course, the government can step in and make new regulation that requires companies to adopt the ISO standard. But for now, the choice belongs to each individual organization.

Seabrook thinks there might some incentive for employers to adopt the standard for reasons other than safety and health. She believes that the standard can also help companies “achieve growth and sustainability objectives while improving their bottom line.”

For those that do want to adopt the standard, it will likely take some time. Although ISO 45001 has already been developed and approved, there will be a three-year transition period for anyone who wishes to register.

ISO may have just set a new precedent of international efforts to improve workplace safety and health. Time will tell how effective the new standard will be, and whether there will be more to come.

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