Employee Engagement With Occupational Health & Safety Under ISO 45001:2018

a group of six assorted male and female manual workers and management staff having a chat on the factory floor

Employee engagement with Occupational Health & Safety under ISO 45001:2018 is perhaps most critical of all the ISO standards. And here is why…

Your organisation has to consider the needs and expectations of all interested parties when you’re developing a management system. Employees are a key interested party. And when it comes to ISO 45001, they’ve got a real and significant stake in the Health & Safety performance of the company they’re employed by.

But, just how interested should they be?

ISO Standard Requirements

Having a team working together towards a shared goal is key to overall business success. Employee engagement with Occupational Health & Safety is no exception. It’s a case of the sooner the better for getting your employees and/or their representatives on board, for:

  • Initial planning stages
  • Implementation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Continuous improvement

So, what does ISO 45001 set out in terms of mandated requirements?  

Before we delve into this more deeply, let’s first set the scene.

a group of 15 assorted male and female employees sat in a circle of chairs having an informal meeting

Employees: The Backbone of Every Business

Employees are the backbone of any organisation; your most valuable asset. And you, as an employer, have a duty of care to your employees. This means taking all reasonable steps to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. 

Consider this. The Health & Safety Executive report for 2021/22 revealed:

  • 1.8 million employees suffered from a work-related illness
  • 36.8 million working days were lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury

This data highlights the importance of harnessing the working knowledge of your employees, their understanding of the working environment, and their views. After all, these are the people you’re aiming to protect. 

In addition, your employees might have in-depth understanding of operational procedures, as well as the hazards associated with their roles. So, capturing this information makes a positive contribution to the development and ongoing success of your management system. 

In order to cultivate employee engagement with Occupational Health & Safety, think about the mechanisms you need to provide, such as:

  • Time
  • Training
  • Resources

Having a ‘bigger picture’ overview equips you to identify, minimise and remove any such barriers.  For example, management teams might be poor at responding to employee suggestions. Or, current practices might discourage workforce participation. So, it’s well worth optimising employee engagement to:

  • Identify hazards
  • Determine risks and opportunities
  • Create actions required to eliminate and reduce risks

Ultimately, “consultation and participation” is not only a requirement of the standard, but also a contributor to a safer working environment.

What Does Consultation and Participation Imply?

In terms of employee engagement with Occupational Health & Safety within ISO 145001, consultation and participation have the following implications:

  • Consultation implies two-way communication. This means employees and/or their representatives can provide feedback for you to consider before any decisions are made. 
  • Participation implies the proactive contribution of employees and/or their representatives. This means direct involvement in any relevant decision-making about Occupational Health & Safety performance and proposed changes. 

Bear in mind that not everyone needs to be involved at all times. And not every suggestion needs to be acted upon. Consultation and participation should be proportionate to your organisation.

That said, most employees want to be involved and play a part at work. And they’re more willing to co-operate when they understand the proposed outcomes and feel heard.   

an out stretched hand holding the animated word – communication – surrounded by a variety of symbols such as a red heart a pink piggy bank a green telephone handset a globe an @ sign

How About Effective Communication?

Clause 7.4 – Communication and especially in Clause 7.4.2 – Internal communication reflect that the power of effective communication can’t be overstated. The combination of communication, consultation and participation ensures you’re sharing information about the Occupational Health & Safety management system across the various levels and functions of the organisation. 

Depending on your organisation, this two-way communication process can take many forms, such as:

  • Formal or informal discussion forums
  • Regular briefings
  • Employee involvement in the company strategy of the company
  • Training and development
  • Hazard and risk assessment participation
  • Incident investigations including contributing factors

The list is endless. So, it’s a good idea to nail the most suitable ways of implementing them. For example, are more formal mechanisms required, such as H&S committees? It differs on a business-by-business basis. But whatever suits your specific scenario, it’s important that once the mechanisms you choose are fully supported by the Management Team.

At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for safety. To this end, employee engagement with Occupational Health & Safety under ISO 45001 is a brilliant way to optimise safety on an ongoing basis as your business and compliance requirements evolve.

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