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First occupational health and safety international standard

Legal News Reporter

Published: March 28, 2018

According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), estimates show that employers in the U.S. pay out almost $1 billion per week in direct workers’ compensation costs alone and that doesn’t include indirect expenses related to lost productivity, damaged equipment, accident investigations and corrective measures.

To help reduce worked-related accidents and injuries, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed a new standard to provide guidance to businesses on how to improve safety, reduce risks and create better working conditions.

The ISO 45001, occupational health and safety management systems, was published on March 12 and is the world’s first occupational health and safety international standard.

It was developed by a committee of experts from 70 countries, who began working on drafting the new standard in 2013.

The IS 45001 follows other management system approaches like the ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, also taking into account the OHSAS 18001, the International Labour Organization’s ILO-OSH guidelines as well as various national standards.

Attorney Ed Foulke, Jr., a partner at the management-side labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips sat on the technical advisory group for the American Society of Safety Engineers, which helped develop the standard.

“The ISO 45001 can help companies take safety to the next level,” said Foulke, former assistant secretary of labor for OSHA under President George W. Bush. “The new standard will replace the British 18001 system.

“It is voluntary, as the previous standards were, but any business, large or small, looking to drive down injuries, decrease health problems and prevent deaths is advised to seek certification.

“Upgrading to the new standard is possible even if the business has never sought certification,” said Foulke.

In addition to reducing costs related to worker injuries and deaths, Foulke said the new standard aligns with other management systems that many companies already have in place, such as the ISO 9001 (quality management) and the ISO 14001 (environmental management) and will significantly enhance a company’s sustainability program.

He said by reducing injuries and illnesses, businesses will become more profitable and competitive.

“I am recommending it to all of my clients, especially publicly traded companies, because it demonstrates that the employer is committed to a safe, healthy and sustainable workplace,” said Foulke.

“I will do a gap analysis for any of my clients who are interested to determine where there are deficiencies and what they need to do in order to become certified.”

Nathan Pangrace, an attorney at Roetzel & Andress, who focuses on business and employment litigation, said businesses that adopt the new global standard could potentially lower their insurance rates and workers’ compensation premiums.

“The new standard sets out general health and safety guidelines that can be adapted to businesses of any size or in any industry,” said Pangrace, who defends employers against OSHA citations and provides advice on compliance with safety regulations.

“A lot of work has gone into drafting the new standard, which is interesting and promising to say the least,” said Pangrace. “I am reviewing and studying the provisions so that I might be in a position to recommend it to my clients.”