Occupational health and safety: the ISO 45001 boom


The latest ISO Survey shows a sharp increase in the number of companies and sites with ISO 45001 certification. Four years after its introduction, the leading standard for building an occupational health and safety management system is spreading around the world.

Patrice Koralewski > AFNOR Group auditor

For the first time, the number of active ISO 9001 certificates worldwide has passed the one million mark, according to the latest ISO Survey, which stopped counting on 31 December 2021. But this is not the most important figure to be retained from this annual exercise, although it concerns quality management, the standardized management system most mastered by companies worldwide. We prefer to draw your attention to ISO 45001, the cousin of ISO 9001 applied to occupational health and safety (OHS).

In two years, the number of certified organizations worldwide has increased eightfold, from 38,654 in 2019 to 294,420 in 2021, particularly in China (two out of every three certificates worldwide are Chinese), Italy and the UK. Occupational health and safety management now ranks third in the hit parade of standardized management systems that generate the most certifications, ahead of ISO/IEC 27001 (information security) and behind quality and the environment, with which it forms the QSE triptych. " This increase can be explained in particular by the end of the British-inspired BS OHSAS 18001 text, which was the standard until ISO 45001 took over. Companies had until September 11, 2021 to convert, and we note that 100% of former OHSAS-labeled companies have switched to the new text," says auditor Patrice Koralewski, who visits companies claiming to apply this standard on a daily basis for AFNOR Certification.

A common structure for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001

The differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001 are often subtle, as we explained here. But the publication of the international voluntary standard in 2018 has given a boost to OHS management, gaining a favorable ear from corporate QSE managers - and even their colleagues in the purchasing department - who have found in it the structure of the ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment) standards. "That's the strength of these standards: they are based on a common foundation, which can be adapted to specific issues. And this is done while taking into account the regulatory context, regardless of the labor laws that apply in the country," adds Patrice Koralewski. But even in a country that tends to attribute this theme to regulation rather than standardization, good OHS management increasingly involves ISO.

This is especially true in the construction industry, which has the highest number of active ISO 45001 certificates: nearly one in five certificates worldwide is held by a construction company, according to theISO Survey. This is normal: in this accident-prone sector, the safety culture is strong, and QSE managers have found in ISO 45001 an objective way of demonstrating to their stakeholders that they are taking the matter seriously, over and above their regulatory obligations. Companies have everything to gain: according to estimates, one euro invested in health and safety at work generates an average of 2.20 euros in benefits, by reducing risks and accidents.

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