Do Management Systems Standards and Certification Increase Performance in an Organisation?

Do Management Systems Standards and Certification Increase Performance in an Organisation?

There’s previously been very little independent research available to demonstrate that working to ISO management systems standards improves business performance. That’s a distinct lack of hard facts and figures to confirm what many businesses around the globe have known for years – until now!

A joint study conducted by scholars at Harvard Business School and Duke University has confirmed there is a direct relationship between management system standards and, in the case of the study – OHSAS 18001 and a reduction in workplace incidents in the United States.

The scholars used proprietary data from some of the world’s largest certification bodies and the injury data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics as the source of the research. Their findings showed that businesses who had certified to OHSAS 18001 standard tended to be safer workplaces.

Transition from management systems standards OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001

OHSAS 18001 became an official British Standard in 2007, benchmarking the best practices for managing occupational health and safety.

It was later replaced by ISO 45001 in 2018. But much of the DNA from OHSAS 18001 can still be found in the new standard. Additionally, ISO 45001 includes more requirement for –

• Stronger leadership
• Improved communication and participation with employees
• Greater proactivity in reducing workplace incidents

If you’re asking why OHSAS 18001 was used for the study rather than ISO 45001, the answer is as simple as the availability of more data around the former standard.

So, what did the data reveal?

In the words of Professor Toffell of Harvard Business School:

“For every establishment that got certified, we found another one that was similar to them that didn’t get certified. We then looked several years back at their annual safety performance, and then looked several years after the certification point to see if there is a difference in trends. The answer is yes, Certification leads to a:

20 decline in the number of injury and illness cases

20% decline in the number of injury and illness cases

Harvard’s Michael Toffel and Kala Viswanathan and Duke University’s Matthew Johnson analysed approximately 300 businesses that were certified to OHSAS 18001 management systems standards. They then compared the number of illness and injury cases against similar organisations that weren’t certified.

The study found that:

• Certified organisations tended to be safer workplaces
• Certification reduced the total number of injury and illness by 20%
• Certification reduced the severity of most injuries and illnesses – those that could lead to days away from work – on a similar scale

These results have finally provided independent evidence that the adoption of management systems standards not only drives continual improvement. But additionally, it also protects employees.

Is certification necessary to reap the rewards?

My belief is yes, it is. The value isn’t in the certificate itself, though it does provide your supply chain, customers and stakeholders with surety that you prioritise safety, quality and/or environmental protection (depending on the standard(s) you’re certified to).

It’s the process of certification that carries the real value. Having an independent assessment of your management system gives a fresh pair of eyes the opportunity to review what’s being done (or, on the obverse side of the coin, what’s getting missed in error). Plus, Auditors also come with a wealth of experience. As a result, they can provide examples of best practice which you might not have thought about before.

You see continual improvement is at the heart of all ISO management systems standards. Working with a certification body, knowing that your management system will be scrutinised, doesn’t allow for complacency. On the contrary, it keeps the focus on “how can we do this better?”. And that’s a positive outlook for any business to uphold.

If you would like to read the study, click here.

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