When the new ISO 45001 standard (for occupational health & safety) was released, effectively phasing out OSHAS 18001, I had my doubts as to its popularity in the US. There are a number of requirements in the 45K standard which are way over the top as compared to the 18K standard. Being the wonderful control freaks that US managers are (myself included), I figured this standard was not going to prove viable for US organizations to embrace. It’s possible that I was wrong (write it down).

I’ve started getting phone calls from all types of industries beginning to investigate implementing an ISO 45001:2018 health & safety management system. The kinds of industries run the gambit from candy manufacturers to electronics and automotive suppliers. The question I asked is why? In some cases these organizations do not subscribe to other ISO standards so I wondered about the driver. The answer comes back, “to make a difference in our worker safety and move the needle on our worker’s comp claims”.

The end game is not terribly surprising. It is proven that workers who feel safe at their place of employment are much more likely to stay there. I don’t know of anyone who comes to work and says, “hmmm I think I’ll have an accident today and injure myself”. They may not plan it but it often occurs and what can we do to change the dynamics in our places of work?

In many organizations, the low hanging fruit has already been picked. We’ve created the safety committees and done 5-S audits and rewarded associates for working safely. Now it’s time to kick our game up a notch.

The Golden Opportunity which ISO 45001:2018 brings to the table is the chance to truly engage our associates (yes, we mean the hourly employees) in not only identification of health and safety risks and opportunities, but to select solutions and have true input in the process.

Who knows the health & safety risks better than those who work in a specific area every day? Who knows what might work to allow them to reduce accidents and leave work every day in the same condition in which they arrived? The employees do.

How can we engage them? One technique I use when auditing is to ask the employee about the health & safety risks in their area. Invariably, they respond that there are no risks in their area – they work safely every day. The interesting thing is when I change tactics I get a much different answer.

My second approach is to tell them that a young person who is special to them is coming to work with them today (a newly minted high school graduate is ideal). I then ask, “if your son or grandson were to come to work in your department today, what would you tell him to pay attention to in order to work safely?” It’s truly amazing the things they come up with after that.

On top of that – this ice breaker question often results in a continuing conversation about things that have happened in the past which were never mentioned previously (or acknowledged to even be possible).

With all of the retirements about to happen – just think of the terrific opportunities to mine for gold from the history of the organization. Hurry – start asking for stories before they retire!

Jennifer Koenig is a ISO 45001:2018 auditor certified through Exemplar Global Check out our Linked In site for more information or our web page at www.ecshelp.com