The latest news from PC 283, the project committee developing the ISO 45001 standard, indicates development is returning to course and it could even be published by the end of 2017. Even though this news is welcomed in many parts the process from here is not assured and, in much the same way that true love never runs smooth, I am sure there will be hiccoughs along the way and more heated discussion behind closed doors.
DIS ISO 45001 is a new management system standard (MSS) and there is huge interest in the first ISO standard for occupational health & safety management. There are 67 countries participating in development, as well as liaisons including other ISO committees with an interest in management systems and conformity assessment and a further 10 independent organisations involved in occupational health & safety, both Nationally and Internationally. Each participating country and liaison organisation has a view of what ISO 45001 should look like and, when the 60 or so delegates arrive at each meeting to work on the text to appear in the standard it is not surprising that there should be disagreement. Whatever background the technical expert attending the ISO committee has will influence the position they take at the working group and, in the background, most national standards bodies will have a mirror committee or group debating what the country position should be. It is easy for different approaches to lead to difficulties in getting to the consensus that all standards require before they can proceed. If you represent an NGO interested in promoting occupational health, for example, you may be pushing for higher standards while another group member represents a conformity assessment body interested in ensuring the standard can be assessed easily with existing auditors.
You only have to look at a selection from common text used in ISO Directives to see the scale of some of the challenges to standards development. Any MSS should:
- be applicable to organisations of every size, across sectors and cultures
- permit free trade of goods and services in line with WTO rules
- be easily understood, unambiguous, and easily translatable
It is no surprise a standard can sometimes bog down, in fact it is more surprising that any meaningful standard is ever produced.
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