New ISO Health and Safety Standard

ISO has approved the creation of a new project committee to develop an International Standard for Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S).

The much-awaited standard will provide governmental agencies, industry, and other affected stakeholders with effective, usable guidance for improving worker safety. The work will be overseen by ISO Project Committee (PC) 283, Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements.

According to International Labor Organization (ILO) statistics, 6300 people die every day due to occupational accidents or work-related diseases, resulting in more than 2.3 million deaths per year. More than 300 million accidents occur on the job annually; many of these resulting in extended absences from work. Many such accidents can be prevented, and the future ISO standard will provide, for the first time, an international framework for OH&S best practice and, in so doing, reduce work-related accidents, injuries, and diseases worldwide.

The secretariat of ISO/PC 283 has been assigned to the British Standards Institution (BSI) and its first meeting is expected to be held in October 2013. The ISO project committee will be tasked with transforming the current BSI standard, OHSAS 18001 into an ISO standard.

According to ILO statistics, the economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4 % of the global Gross Domestic Product each year. Employers face costly early retirements, loss of skilled staff, absenteeism, and high insurance premiums due to work-related accidents and diseases. The future ISO standard has the potential to improve occupational health and safety management on a global level.

The ISO project committee will bring together experts and interested stakeholders in OH&S management. The committee’s job will be to develop a standard following the generic management system approaches pioneered by the likes of ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 14001 for environmental management.

The Secretary of ISO/PC 283, Charles Corrie, says, “Creating a safe work environment is critical to the success of any business, and is one of the best ways to attract and retain staff, as well as, maximize productivity. Though it is still in its infancy, the future ISO standard will provide businesses around the world with a strong foundation to achieve long-term success.”