During the 2022 International Labor Conference last June, the ILO recognized a “safe and healthy working environment” as a fundamental principle and right at work. Ensuring health and safety is the A and Z for more efficient workplaces, which translate to happy employees, minimal disruption and high organizational reputation.
But how can this health and safety be ensured? In 2018, ISO officially set the framework for strong workplace health and safety by bringing to life the much-anticipated ISO 45001.
What is ISO 45001?
ISO 45001 is a standard specifying the minimum requirements for a company’s occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system. In this way, it acts as a guide to organizations to provide a safe and healthy workplace to their employees.
Set by the International Organization for Standardization as recently as 2018, ISO 45001 is applicable to any organization regardless of its size, type, and activities. However, it is taking into account factors, such as the context in which the organization operates and the needs and expectations of its stakeholders.
It is worth noting that ISO 45001 addresses only health and safety risks related to the organization’s people and no other external risks like property or environmental damage.
3 benefits of implementing ISO 45001
Ensuring people’s safety is an obvious advantage of achieving compliance with ISO 45001 and it should be, on its own, an adequate reason for companies to implement it. A total of 112 seafarers were killed on ships in 2019, according to data provided by IHS Markit.
Making sure that people are going back home safe at the end of the working day or at the end of the working contract is a human right for them and a moral obligation for you. However, there are extra advantages for companies that go beyond minimum in health and safety:
1. Boost reputation: In the current competitive market and post-COVID disruption, maintaining long-term legitimacy is vital for organizations that wish to thrive. Identifying a shipping brand with health and safety can show stakeholders that this is a serious organization. This applies not only to customers who will have a higher opinion of this organization, but also to potential employees, as well as investors and partners who are more likely to want to do business with it.
2. Stand out from competition: Initiative is a key feature of innovative organizations. As ISO 45001 is only 4 years old, the first shipping companies to fully integrate it is a way for organizations to lead by example by demonstrating their commitment to safety. If you wait for all of your competitors to implement it first, the chances of standing out as “an organization devoted to health and safety” are minimal.
3. Increase productivity: Research shows that workers are more productive in workplaces that are committed to health and safety. In addition, workplace accident is not a rare phenomenon, with ILO reporting around 340 million occupational accidents every year. Every time a worker is injured and is unable to return to work, the company falls behind in productivity by looking for a replacement or even temporarily shutting down operations. Needless to say, the operational costs of a ship deviating from its route are at least significant.
Last but not least: ISO 45001 for psychological safety at work
Shipping is a fast-paced working environment, both onboard and ashore, which can lead to mental fatigue, anxiety, and even burnout. Sources of these may vary from long shift hours to the stressful tasks of the job itself. More complicated issues concern the lack of psychological safety at work. Through its OH&S management system, the ISO 45001 standard enables an organization to integrate other aspects of health and safety, such as workers’ well-being. Let’s take a look at the relevant sections:
4.1 Understanding the organization and its context: This section requires the provision of a high-level understanding of key issues that can affect health and safety both positively and negatively within the organization.
5.4: Consultation and participation of workers: This section states that the organization must have a process for consultation and participation of all workers of all levels. It outlines that non-managerial employees must be included. This seeks to prevent employees’ anxiety from feeling “unheard”.
6.1 Actions to address risks and opportunities: Failure to address risks related to employees’ psychological risks can have disastrous consequences.
7.1 Resources: The company must provide the resources needed to enhance safety management. This includes resources aiming to address psychosocial risks.
7.4 Communication: Under this section, the organization must establish processes for communicating safety management information to employees. This promotes inclusivity and a greater sense of belonging.
8.1.2 Eliminating hazards and reducing OHS risks: This includes the elimination of sources of psychosocial risks.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) for health and safety
The fact that ISO 45001 ISO 45001 emphasizes consultation and participation of all workers in risk identification showcases that DEI is central to an effective safety management system. A relevant example here is the fact that most personal protective equipment (PPE) corresponds to the body dimensions of male users, creating risks for women workers.
As such, integrating DEI in the organization’s safety management can help reduce psychosocial risks in a number of ways. For example, an inclusive workplace promotes team cohesion and a culture of belonging, which, in turn, leads to better sharing of information about hazards and risks. Any unconscious biases that leave people out of safety consultations are not part of a robust health and safety management system.
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