Warning on global OSH standard

Australian businesses are being urged not to fully implement the new global standard in occupational health and safety, ISO 45001.

While organisations may now be able to begin the mechanisms to become accredited to the standard, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says organisations should wait for a decision from Standards Australia before adopting it.

ACCI CEO James Pearson says a number of outstanding issues remain to be addressed.

He says many of these issues related to addressing any potential unintended consequences of the standard conflicting with existing Australian legislation.

ACCI Associate Director Work Health and Safety Jennifer Low has identified concerns over the terms and language used such as ‘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,” she says.

“We are concerned that these differences could create confusion and lead to varied interpretations and conduct by businesses that may result in non-compliance.”

Although there is no way to accurately identify the number and characteristics of businesses that are currently accredited to AS4801, and may therefore adopt ISO 45001, anecdotally ACCI and CCI knows that it’s 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 easily and consistently interpreted by Australian operators.

Any ambiguity or variance in interpretation by businesses, practitioners, consultants or auditors may have unintended consequences, such as legislative non-compliance, increased cost, a competition- limiting effect or may not result in improved safety outcomes and culture.

►Have a safety query? CCI’s experienced Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Consultants can provide professional advice to help you manage your workplace health and safety needs. Find out more here.

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