Oils ain’t Oils! – ISO 45001 – AS NZ 45001 – Safety Management Systems?

28 November 2020

If you’re old enough to catch the reference in the title of this blog, then you’ve probably been around long enough to hear your fair share of safety terminology. Safety 1, Safety 2, Safety Differently, ISO 45001, Bowties, AS NZS 4801, 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 31000, the list goes on with endless new and old acronyms and fad words. But what is the Good oil and what is just snake oil?

Each week the team at SAFE365 will tease out the truth behind some of the more common safety vocabulary found in our industry.

This week we look at AS NZS ISO 45001:2018 Safety Management Systems.

September and October 2018 were the months that saw the newest safety management standard, approved, on behalf of the Councils of Standards Australia and the New Zealand Standards Approval Board. Since this time it has become somewhat of a buzz word in the safety community for its apparent ability to revolutionise the way we view our safety and the alleged ability for it to be a cure for almost any safety problem.


Taking a step back, the International Standards Organisation, or ISO, as it is more commonly referred to, is an independent, non-governmental international organisation with a membership of 165 national standards bodies. Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges. In the case of Standard 45001, the solution it provides is a framework for Safety Management Systems.

From the ISO website itself, the 45001 standard is described as;

“The world’s first International Standard dealing with health and safety at work, ISO 45001, Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, offers a single, clear framework for all organisations wishing to improve their OH&S performance. Directed at the top management of an organisation, it aims to provide a safe and healthy workplace for employees and visitors. To achieve this, it is crucial to control all factors that might result in illness, injury, and in extreme cases death, by mitigating adverse effects on the physical, mental and cognitive condition of a person – and ISO 45001 covers all of those aspects.”


Why does my business need this?

There are many technical diatribes available online extolling the virtues of 45001 over the older 4801 and 18001 standards. From a very generalist perspective there are three key advantages to utilising this framework over older systems;

  • It’s an International Standard – recognised globally; if you export goods or services to another country, aligning with 45001 makes good sense. Perhaps you need to prequalify with an overseas client? Aligning your systems to this standard will ensure that your systems are more likely to be universally acceptable to an international audience
  • From a high level, the standard takes a risk-based approach to safety, which is the same methodology taken by our very own legislation here in Australia and New Zealand. Aligning to this standard as well as the associated AS NZS 31000 Risk Management Standard will put you in good stead with our risk-based legislation.
  • The standard uses common terminology (referred to as Annex SL). What this means is that the 45001 standard utilises the same terms, meanings, and methodologies as other commonly used standards such as;
    • ISO 14001 Environmental Management
    • ISO 9001 Quality Management
    • ISO 31000 Risk Management

Essentially your safety staff will find it easier to adopt this standard when building a safety system for your business, not only because of the previously listed reason but also because of the plethora of material available for it online such as Gap Analysis tools, research articles, and of course products like our very own SAFE365!

Snake Oil or Good Oil?

There is no doubt in my mind that AS NZS 45001:2018 is an excellent standard, and I would recommend any business utilise this standard when building a safety framework, but bear in mind that at its core, that is all it does. It guides your team in system building, nothing more, nothing less.

Are you ready to measure your businesses safety maturity against not only legislative requirements but also against the International Standard requirements? Why not take a SAFE365 trial today! Contact us for more information or sign up here now!

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