ETUC Resolution on ISO DIS 45001Occupational health and safety management systems

Brussels 18 April 2016

  • To Executive Committee Members
  • For Information to ETUC Member organisations


Occupational health and safety management systems - requirements with guidance for use (Resolution on ISO DIS 45001) 

Adopted at the Meeting of the Executive Committee on the 13th April 2016.



Occupational health and safety is a fundamental worker’s right and the European Union has adopted 24 Directives related to occupational health and safety to provide a minimum level of protection at the workplace and provides the basis for workers to enforce their rights. It is essential that this legal framework is defended and improved. However, the latest challenge to the legal framework is a voluntary standard ISO/DIS 45001, « Occupational health and safety management systems – requirements with guidance for use “.

The ETUC along with the ITUC is concerned that the proposed International standard, ISO/DIS 45001 will, in many countries, represent a risk for the advancement of the legal framework promoting good health and safety at the workplace, if it is adopted in its current form.

Hence, the objective of this Resolution is twofold: to promote trade unions’ interests and concerns by voting and making comments to influence the ISO process, and oppose the de-regulatory and voluntary-ruling trend that targets EU-OSH directives.

The ETUC thus calls on its affiliates to take action to reject the draft ISO/DIS 45001 by sharing the following comments and if possible securing changes:

The proposed standard has the potential to undermine the EU OSH Framework:

Non-compulsory standards should not deal with issues better regulated through legislation. Existing regulations, national laws and other legal requirements, including the Framework Directive include provisions on risk assessment, training, information and consultation, specific protection for sensitive groups.

Management System Standards (MSS) vs Legislation and binding standards:

Our overall assessment is that the MSS in its current form promotes a process-driven approach relying on private bureaucracy and implicitly aimed at achieving certification. This encourages self-regulation endangering effective health and safety enforcement. OHS cannot be reduced to a mere management system. The development of a certifiable MSS for OHS entails the risk that certification to ISO/DIS 45001 will be used as evidence of compliance with legal requirements. This is not acceptable for a number of reasons.

  1. An MSS should not replace a risk assessment nor should it challenge the approach based on risk prevention developed and delivered though consultation, social dialogue and underpinned by strong regulation and enforcement;
  2. MSS are intended for certification and self-regulation rather than for enforcing effective risk prevention;
  3. MSS requires organisations to define and implement (auditable) processes but without specifying the substantial objectives to achieve in OHS, leading to focus on processes rather than outcomes.

Respect for ILO Conventions and fundamental workers’ rights:

The voluntary ISO/DIS 45001 standard is not the right place for establishing fundamental rights of workers regarding occupational health and safety. It does not respect and adequately reflect core principles of the ILO’s International Labour Standards (ILS) in the field of OHS. 
As an example of that, ILO has pointed out some issues, which ETUC supports, such as:

  1.  “the ISO/DIS 45001 does not support and respect the core ILS principle that a minimum objective of an effective occupational health and safety management system should be the organization’s compliance with national laws, regulations and other legal requirements.”1]
  2. “ISO/DIS 45001 does not recognize the importance of these committees [workers' safety delegates, workers' safety and health committees, and joint safety and health committees] and delegates as workplace level mechanisms for achieving worker participation and consultation on workplace safety and health.”2 

  3. “ISO/DIS 45001 does not respect and support the ILS and related ILO action that distinguishes between the meaning of the terms participation and consultation.”3 

                    The ITUC has also raised concerns with regards to fundamental health and safety rights, including "the right of workers to refuse hazardous work without fear of discipline”4 and the employer's “obligation to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at no cost to the worker concerned”. 

The ETUC recommendation is that instead of reformulating parts of the ILO conventions in a private standard, the standard should respect the agreement between the ILO and the ISO in particular that “ISO standards that relate to issues within the ILOs mandate (ILO Issues); should respect and support the provisions of ILS and related ILO action, including by using ILS as the source of reference with respect to ILO issues in case of conflict.” 5             

Taking Action to Secure Change:

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has submitted the Draft ISO/DIS 45001 to the ballot voting procedure by ISO national members, open until 12 May 2016. It is important to note that this procedure includes a facility for those casting a vote to make comments

The ETUC encourages its affiliates to take action to improve the draft ISO/DIS 45001 and to preserve the progress already made by taking the following actions:

a. ensure that the relevant Ministry and other stakeholders in OHS are aware of the consequences of this draft standard being adopted for workers;

b. to campaign for free access to formal standardistion procedures and standards for trade uions as supported by the ETUC Resolution on standardisation [6] and     in the meantime to consider becoming a member of the ISO Committee in your contry so that you can take part to forthcoming ISO meetings in order to       promote trade unions interest and concerns and in particular to vote and make comments to influence the outcome;

c. contact ISO national members oft the Committee and use the ETUC template to ensure that the trade union points of view are brought forward during the   balloting procedure (open until 12th May 2016)


1 “ILO Comments on ISO/DIS45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems”

2 “ILO Comments on ISO/DIS45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems”

3 “ILO Comments on ISO/DIS45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems”

4 ITUC letter to its affiliates titled “Draft International Standard on Occupational health and safety management systems (ISO 45001)”, available at

5 “Agreement between the International Labour Organization for Standardization (ISO), 2013. Available at

6 « ETUC resolution on the rationale for trade union participation in standardisation » adopted at the ETUC Executive Committee on 16-17 December 2015.