Safer Environments

Returning to work post-lockdown: How ISO has responded to the pandemic

As lockdown lifts all over Australia, employers are implementing COVID-19 Safety Plans to make returning to work safer — how has ISO responded?

Rowan St Clair
Rowan brings a wealth of knowledge in applying business insights to the technical elements of accredited certification.

DISCLAIMER: ISO/PAS 45005 is not a certifiable standard and is not a service we offer. ISO/PAS 45005 is a set of guidelines Australian businesses can follow to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection in the local community.

As lockdowns lift and restrictions ease, many Australians are returning to work — whether it’s an office, a construction site, a retail/hospitality establishment or a warehouse.

Of course, these freedoms come at a cost — there are rules and regulations we all must follow to minimise the risk of COVID-19.

Thousands of business owners and management teams are now implementing COVID-19 Safety Plans so employees can return to the workplace safely. All states and territories have provided templates for a wide range of industries including:

*NOTE: these are examples from the NSW Government.

Returning to work after a significant lockdown is no easy feat — luckily, ISO has responded to the pandemic and the unique circumstances we now work under and has introduced ISO/PAS 45005: Occupational health and safety management – General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know about ISO’s updated guidelines.

What is ISO/PAS 45005?

people wearing masks

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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISO introduced ISO/PAS 45005 as a general guide for managing the risk of disease and infection in the workplace. It supports the principle that:

  • Reasonable measures to manage the risks arising from COVID-19 should be implemented to protect health and safety workers as well as other interested parties, and;
  • Employees should not be required to work unless these safety measures are put in place.

Being general in nature, ISO/PAS 45005 is applicable to businesses of all kinds, no matter the nature of the business, service provision, business size or complexity. The standard also takes into account small businesses that do not have dedicated departments for OH&S, facilities management or human resources.

The goal is to ensure businesses all over the world can:

  • Take effective action to protect workers and interested parties from the risks of COVID-19
  • Demonstrate that it is addressing risks related to COVID-19 using a systematic approach
  • Put a framework in place that allows the business to adapt quickly to the changing situation.

Alongside the Government’s customised COVID-19 Safety Plans, ISO/PAS 45005 can help you create a return to work policy that ensures the safety and efficiency of your team post-lockdown.

Who ISO/PAS 45005 applies to

delivery driver wearing a mask

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The new standard applies to businesses and organisations of all sizes, particularly those who:

  • Have operated throughout the pandemic
  • Are resuming or planning to resume operations following a full or partial closure
  • Are re-occupying workplaces that have been fully or partially closed
  • Are new and planning to operate for the first time.

The standard covers workers of all kinds including external providers/suppliers, contractors, self-employed workers, agency workers, older workers, workers with disabilities and other interested parties including visitors to the workplace and members of the public.

It is important to note that the standard does not provide guidance around disease and infection control protocols in clinical and healthcare settings. In this case, legislation and guidance are provided by the government and health authorities.

How ISO/PAS 45005 compliments ISO 45001

carpenter working at laptop

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As part of the returning to work procedure, businesses and organisations using ISO 45001 can use ISO/PAS 45005 to inform their OH&S practices. Business owners and management teams can utilise the PDCA (Plan – Do – Check – Act) cycle to coordinate resources and efforts to manage COVID-19 risks.

PDCA model

Image: Kanbanize

The cycle works as follows:

  • PLAN: Plan what needs to be done for the business or organisation to work safely in response to COVID-19 risks.
  • DO: Do what has been planned to mitigate these risks.
  • CHECK: See how well the procedures are working. We recommend completing regular audits to identify problems or gaps in the safety management system.
  • ACT: Fix any problems identified in the audit and find ways to make the process even more effective.

For more information about the Plan – Do – Act – Check cycle, read through our related blogs:

Words from ISO’s expert committee on occupational health and safety

Following the introduction of ISO/PAS 45005, Sally Swingewood and Martin Cottam (Manager and Chair of ISO/TC 283, ISO’s expert committee on occupational health and safety) discussed how some businesses have fared better than others in lockdown, and how the new guidelines can help mitigate COVID-19 risks.

“Work takes so many different forms and there are many different types of organisation, each affected differently. Some organisations have made the transition to home office working seamlessly, but many other roles continue to require a physical presence and interaction with others,” Martin said.

“At the same time, people are different and their circumstances are different, so what is manageable for one person may not be for another.”

“One lesson has been the need to tailor the measures both to the organisation itself and, where possible, to the circumstances of individual workers.”

In regards to ISO/PAS 45005, Sally hopes the new guidelines will help businesses become more flexible and able to adapt to changing situations.

“It is hoped that the PAS will help companies to adapt, survive and stay in business, no matter how their local situation changes, without having to compromise on worker safety. By being fully prepared, we should be able to save both lives and jobs.”

“We intend to review and revise ISO/PAS 45005 as necessary. We purposely chose the agile format of a PAS both for its rapidity and flexibility, so that we can update it according to how the situation evolves or develop it further into a full standard.”

“Many organisations’ management of OH&S has tended to focus more on safety than on health, and more on physical health than on mental health, but this is beginning to change.”

“The pandemic has really contributed to breaking down the taboo around mental health in the workplace and it is a necessary component of health and safety for any organisation.”

There is much to learn from these new guidelines and the ISO’s perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. Your business’ perspective on health will need to be adjusted to handle the differing effects of COVID-19, self-isolation and state-wide lockdowns.

Make returning to work simpler and safer with QMS

ISO 45001 goes hand-in-hand with ISO/PAS 45005. Following the procedures and guidelines under ISO 45001 and ISO/PAS 45005 can make returning to work simple and safe for all employees, contractors and even members of the public.

While ISO/PAS 45005 is not a certifiable standard, the recommended guidelines can be useful to improve your OH&S management system and secure ISO 45001 certification.

In order to achieve ISO 45001 certification, you will need to prove compliance with the requirements of the standard. You will also need to pass an assessment and implement the necessary changes to improve safety in the workplace.

Our experienced assessors can perform certification assessments against the ISO 45001 standard to improve your business and manage the risks associated with COVID-19. With more than 25 years of experience, we are your number one choice for auditing and assessment against ISO standards.

For more information or to book an assessment, contact QMS today.

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