Consultation and Participation in ISO 45001

Consultation and Participation in ISO 45001

  • Date: Wednesday 16th January 2019
  • PDF: Download

After a long and difficult journey ISO 45001:2018 finally replaced OHSAS 18001:2007 on 12th March 2018 as the internationally recognised standard for occupational health and safety management systems. 

Clause 5.4 of ISO 45001 aims to enhance the effectiveness of a system through greater involvement of workers in H&S management.  To help us interpret this clause it’s useful to remind ourselves of the meaning of some of the key phrases used in this context:


The process of two-way communication to actively seek and take into account the views of workers regarding H&S management.


The hands-on involvement of workers in decision making processes, helping them take ‘ownership’ of various parts of the H&S management system and play an active role in influencing its performance.

British H&S legislation, the OHSAS 18001 standard and organisations with stronger H&S systems have long promoted the consultation of workers in H&S management, but in ISO 45001 this has been ‘unpacked’ further still and is now far more prescriptive in this area than OHSAS 18001.

At this point we have to ask the obvious question – exactly who are the workers that should be included in this?

The choice of words in the clause gives us a clue.  It uses the phrase “at all applicable levels and functions”, which basically means right across an organisation, both up and down the seniority hierarchy and also across the various departments, disciplines and divisions, including relevant third parties such as contractors. 

In some companies H&S is controlled mainly by managers and no-one asks the ‘people with the spanner in their hand’ what they really think or need regarding H&S.  With ISO 45001 we must deliberately but not exclusively include front-line, non-managerial workers in active roles for H&S – something often seen as a mark of the ultimate H&S management system.

In practice all employees cannot be personally involved to the same level or the impact on operations would make this process prohibitively expensive, no matter how good the intentions.  However, we must ensure that we have provided a means for those not personally involved to still be able to participate in relevant and productive ways, especially if they have concerns or ideas to raise about H&S in their work.

This is where consultation vehicles such as H&S representatives and H&S committees are optional but sometimes very helpful, for both unionised and non-unionised organisations.  In basic terms, workers can be consulted directly or by liaising with other nominated staff who collate key issues and report them up on behalf of the whole workforce for discussion with management.

So, what do we actually have to do under clause 5.4?

We can, in basic terms, split the clause into three core areas:


Points (a) to (c) collectively require organisations to set up effective and workable solutions for involving staff in H&S management.  This includes giving them adequate time off from their normal duties, training them in relevant subjects, providing necessary resources, giving access to relevant information about H&S management and removing barriers preventing effective involvement.


This area is covered in point (d) and the focus here is on the consultation of non-managerial workers.  A list of things we must consult on is provided in the standard and the aim is to get workers’ opinions and feedback so that the H&S management system can be optimised.  Solutions such as H&S workshops, toolbox-talks and other such face-to-face meetings are probably the most desirable, but the important thing is that the chosen solutions are effective and workable, which means getting ‘buy-in’ from everyone involved.  If you boil it right down, this is where staff are given the chance to have their say and ask management to listen to issues affecting their work – management cannot be expected to know what’s important to them if it’s not been reported or discussed.


The target group remains the same here but point (e) differs to point (d) in that the focus is now on a list of things that workers must be ‘actively involved in’ rather than simply ‘asked about’.  This means hands-on involvement and may require a little more planning to ensure simple, yet effective measures are implemented which add value at all times and are workable.

Once again in point (e) the items to be considered are listed for us, so this should be used as a helpful ‘checklist’ when assessing how ready we are.  The clause gives us even more help through useful notes interlaced with the requirements to explain certain parts and clarify key points.

So, how do we apply the requirements of ISO 45001 in our organisations? 

The simplest method is to purchase a copy of the standard and study the clauses carefully.  It’s essential that we accurately translate what the clause requires so we can understand how compliant we are at present and what each requirement does or could look like in our organisations.  This process is known as a ‘Gap Analysis’ and is the starting point for the implementation of any management system, leading to development of a targeted action plan.

One important thing to note is the requirement in point (e) to ensure non-managerial workers are involved in how they want to be consulted and involved!  Asking at the outset what works best for each group means that the interactions between staff on H&S will be as value-adding as they can be and they should serve your H&S management system well.

If your organisation is thinking about working towards certification to an ISO standard and you would like advice or support with building your management system, SSG is proud to offer a range of customer-specific consultancy services which can help.  These range from stand-alone, full system build projects through to ongoing maintenance of existing systems under the Advisor ISO membership package.  If this is of interest to your organisation, please get in touch with a member of SSG’s Sales Team who will be delighted to learn more about your goals and explain how we can support you.

Source: Chris Prior, SSG

Bookmark and Share

Return to listings