Last month, the long-awaited ISO 45001 was finally published after more than four years in development. But as organisations around the world began to become accredited to the standard, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was warning against rash implementation. The ACCI said there were a number of outstanding issues in ISO 45001 that needed to be addressed, and even went as far as to say that they didn't believe that it was possible at this point in time for Australia to adopt the new international standard as is (related article).
Speaking exclusively to myosh, ACCI Associate Director Work Health and Safety, Jennifer Low, said that the ACCI's primary concern relates to some of the language used in the standard, and how certain terms may be interpreted. Specifically, some of these terms include "top management", "participation", and "human factors".
"A number of terms and definitions in the standard differ to those defined in our Australian WHS legislation or are absent altogether. We are concerned that these differences could create confusion and lead to varied interpretations and conduct by businesses that may result in non-compliance."
Additionally, Ms Low said that many SMEs that are accredited to AS4801 are unlikely to have access to quality advice when switching across to ISO 45001, and that any ambiguity or variance in interpretation could have unintended consequences such as "legislative non-compliance, increased cost, a competition limiting effect, or may not result in improved safety outcomes and culture."
"Although there is no way to accurately identify the number and characteristics of businesses who are currently accredited to AS4801, and may therefore adopt ISO 45001, anecdotally we know that it is not just ‘big business’. A significant number of SMEs seek standard accreditation in order to win work through Government tenders or private supply chains."
"SMEs may not have the same access to safety expertise and resources as larger businesses and may rely on a worker internally with limited safety knowledge or seek to engage a consultant. Any core definitions need to be clear and consistently interpreted by Australian operators."
Safety Institute of Australia CEO, David Clarke, said that while the language used in any international standard can be of a concern, the SIA was working through some of these concerns with the ACCI, and was confident any language issues could be addressed.
"We’ve taken a close look at the ACCI comments, and are currently having discussions with them about their concerns regarding some of the language. In our view, the Standard is extremely good for Australian business. As an international standard, terminology can be a concern but we expect that the concerns about language will be resolved successfully."
To help inform their preferred position(s) in discussions with Standards Australia technical committee on Occupational Health & Safety Management SF-001, the Australian Chamber is seeking businesses feedback in relation to the current use of safety management system standards (e.g. AS 4801).
The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, can be found here. Closes April 16th.