I know this might sound like an oxymoron, but the world of ISO standards for QHSE is about to get interesting. You may ask: really? For most of my working life I’ve witnessed the mental shutters come down at the mere mention of words like ISO change, quality and safety (though recently less so for the environment, as we’re all becoming more aware of recycling and the benefit to our planet). Having been a QA engineer since 1980 and auditor for more than 20 years, I’ll generalise here and say that the typical workforce’s attitude towards ISO standard compliance falls into the same category as filling in tax returns or visiting the dentist; they’ll do it, but don’t have to actually like it.
And if they don’t understand what this ISO stuff is all about then I don’t blame them, as I’ve seen some dreadfully complex management systems in my time. Considering the corporate boast of ‘our people are our most important asset’, management system content often fails to progress far beyond the practices of the 1980s, when volumes of procedures were accessed from long lists of titles.‘Ideal for SharePoint’, the IT people will tell you. Now, however, things might be about to get – relatively speaking – exciting. The forthcoming changes to “the three amigos”, namely changes to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and the OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 transition are significant and will affect every company which is registered to each respective standard.
So what are the major common ISO changes?
1. All three standards are now aligned and have exactly the same structure thus making it much easier for an integrated process based management system to be developed and maintained.
2. The revised standards define the adoption of a process-based approach to enable the organisation to optimise its strategic performance through its processes, also know as process-based management, rather than standalone procedures with the traditional mind-numbing format of purpose, scope, responsibilities etc.
3. Companies now need to recognise the issues that affect the organisation’s ability to achieve the intended outcomes, together with understanding the expectations of interested parties (such as legislative bodies, clients and the general public)
4. Top management are able to demonstrate leadership and commitment, taking into account the effectiveness of QHSE
5. Introduction of a risk-based approach that requires organisations to determine and address risks through hazard identification, risk evaluation and controls that are required to be embedded throughout all aspects of the management system
In general, the ISO changes for QHSE remain true to their intention, so they will require consistently high levels of management commitment, greater understanding of risk and its mitigation, together with providing increased levels of transparency through a process-based approach. Some cost-cutting measures can include reducing headcount by significant numbers, so organisations must be aware of the danger of increasing the risk of operational non-compliance due to a misalignment between the new re-structured organisation and their current documented processes and working practices that support the governance framework.
For SMEs, the ISO changes should not prove to be overly difficult to implement; however, it could be a different story for large organisations with global offices and remote work sites that have their own independent QHSE management systems.
This fragmented approach may hinder collaboration and restrict information sharing as well as being considerably more expensive to maintain.
The benefits of a more integrated ISO model will reduce inefficiencies such as duplication, create greater awareness of inherent risk, and ensure these standards are embedded into everyday operations.
For more information on how a process based management system can help your organisation weather the ISO changes, contact Agility Systems today or call us at (+44) 01224 33 00 00.
-Written by Peter Shields, MD of Businessport