Occupational health and safety: a new international standard for 2017

The future ISO standard on occupational health and safety management is taking shape. The 58 countries involved, including France, recently consulted on a second version of the draft. ISO 45001 will be released in 2017, superseding OHSAS 18001.

The new standard has already prompted intense debate. The subject matter is not product quality, but the health and safety – and sometimes the life – of people. One thing is for certain: ISO 45001 will be highly demanding, since work will draw inspiration from the OHSAS 18001 standard developed by BSI, AFNOR’s counterpart in the UK, and ISO has entered into an agreement with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to ensure that the new ISO standard is no less demanding than its own ILO-OSH guidelines.

According to the ILO, which is actively involved in the work, the economic burden of poor occupational health and safety practices is estimated at 4% of the global GDP each year. For employers, the cost is significant due to early retirements, loss of qualified employees, absenteeism and high insurance premiums caused by work-related accidents and illnesses. “Therefore, the time had come to build an international standard,” insists Florence Saillet, Secretary of the “Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems” standardization commission, “this international standard will give organizations a structured and formalized approach that will help promote occupational health and safety around the world.”

“People are already the focus of all the stages proposed by the management system currently under preparation. The same applies to risk prevention. The future ISO 45001 standard introduces the concept of active participation by employees and their representatives in risk prevention and the concept of proactive management of OHS risks,” explains Florence Saillet.
One of the major challenges at the present time is reaching an agreement about the definitions of worker and workplace to include all new forms of work in the standard (interns, apprentices, subcontractors, teleworkers, mobile workers, etc.). Discussions are also focusing on how to define risk and whether it should include the concept of risks relating to employee behaviour.
Another new feature is that ISO 45001 will contain the same standards structure as the new 2015 versions of ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment) for easier integration. The standard is due to be released early 2017 and will also include an appendix with best practices for implementing the standard.

“As soon as we have access to reliable content, AFNOR Certification will work on the certification process and the methods allowing OHSAS 18001 and ILO-OSH-certified organizations to migrate to the new version, and we will update the practical rules that shed light on the requirements of the standard,” explains Christelle Rebillet, OHSAS 18001 Product Manager at AFNOR Certification.
“We will probably organize regional workshops to present the new ISO 45001 standard. Focus meetings and pre-audit surveys will be offered to organizations to help them determine their level of maturity at any given point in time. The OHSAS 18001 and ILO-OSH standards should logically be replaced by ISO 45001 in the national catalogues. AFNOR Certification is keeping a close eye on this particular topic. Until such time as the standard has been published, occupational health and safety will be subject to intense activity with a number of regional initiatives.”


  • Summer 2015: meetings of the countries involved to analyze all the comments made.
  • Late 2015: creation of an official draft standard (DIS).
  • Early 2016: submission to a public enquiry, so that everyone can check out the draft version and provide their comments online free of charge. Each participant in the public enquiry will subsequently be invited to a meeting for examining the comments.
  • Mid-2016: official text ready for final voting (FDIS).
  • Early 2017: publication of ISO 45001.


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