The concept of one documented management system for an entire business is not new, and in most cases, it’s the perfect solution to avoid system complexity. Instead of separate systems with different guides, policies and intentions, the idea of the one cohesive system based on a solid base of risk assessment and worker consultation is undoubtedly the optimum solution. No longer would there be a stand-alone safety system, separate HR process, and a raft of IT documentation propping up that uneven desk in the server room.

The Health and Safety at Work Act was enacted in 2015 and applied to all business in New Zealand. The instrument itself is heavily weighted towards risk identification and mitigation.  Despite this intention, the application of the Act itself is commonly not effectively applied in business, resulting in complex safety bolt-ons to long-standing processes, and in the worst-case scenario, these “bolt-ons” are not risk assessed or consulted with the workforce, two critical requirements of the legislation. Consequently, this leads to the perception of safety being seen as an additional task or element that is commonly getting in the way of workers undertaking their core job role.

Now consider for a moment your businesses suite of documented processes, policies and procedures. How did they come to life? Are they relevant, risk-based documents with appropriate references linking back to your requirements as a PCBU, your workers' obligations, or even the obligations and duties of line managers?  Are these documents easy to access and read? Do front line workers readily understand and reference them?

If you answered no to, or perhaps even hesitated in answering any of these questions, then the release of AS NZ ISO 45001:2018 Safety Management Systems, has seen some very exciting changes in the safety management system landscape. Of all of these changes, what is arguably the most crucial difference is the new integration and alignment of common terminology in the new standard in accordance with ISO Annex L (formerly Annex SL but renamed with the 2019 edition).

Annex L aims to ensure consistency in language throughout the ISO Management System Standards (MSS); this was previously in place with ISO standards 9001 and 14001 but was never in force with the older 4801 or 18001 Safety Management guidelines.

So what does this mean?

Essentially, the new 45001 standard simplifies the process of developing integrated management solutions as it now uses common terminology as other ISO Management Frameworks, notably. AS NZ ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management Systems) and AS NZ ISO 14001:2016 (Environmental Management Systems). Further to this, it now means that it becomes simpler to develop a practical Integrated Management System approach, critical to integrated and transparent safety culture in an organisation.

However, imagine bigger than this. Imagine a truly integrated management solution where all policy and procedure was combined under the one documented framework, as opposed to separate procedural frameworks for HR, Operations, Finance and IT. Even very specialist areas such as laboratories or machinery operations can now be incorporated under the new framework. Best of all, because safety is a common thread through the entire framework, it’s no longer an afterthought or a bolt-on, but just the way we do things around here.

The question your business needs to ask is, is occupational health and safety a bolt-on? Is safety seen as an additional chore or an exercise in stats gathering? Do you employ a standalone Safety Management System? When implemented well, this standard can ensure that safety is fully embedded throughout organisational operations.

This is not a drill!

The integrated systems approach is not new nor is it revolutionary. What is new is a cohesive alignmentthat enables seamless cohesion across a range of standards. It can be argued that by having a transparent integrated system, with safety as a common thread throughout, a workforce no longer identifies safety as an additional task, but as just the way you do business. 

Positive safety cultures flow on to a happier workplace and a content workforce. After all - is not the wellbeing and happiness of a stable workforce every manager’s goal?

Our Risk Advisory team works with businesses to achieve Occupational Health and Safety Success. Read more about our work here

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