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ISO 45001 & CultureSAFE

With 62 votes of approval, 4 votes of disapproval and 9 abstentions from the participating countries / members, the Final Draft of ISO 45001 was approved for publication as an International Standard. It was published on 12 March 2018 and is the first International Standard that specifies the framework for establishing an occupational health and safety (OH&S) Management System. It replaces the British Standard – BS OHSAS 18001: 2007 which was also a popular standard that provided a framework in establishing organisation’s OH&S Management System since 1999.

Fundamentally, both standards specify a framework for organisation’s adoption in managing its OH&S issues proactively. The ultimate aim is to protect the workers from any harm while they are involving in occupational duties. Read earlier post on involvement of workers.

As an OH&S Practitioner, I always believe that any incident can be prevented. You will probably need tens and hundreds or even thousands of measures to prevent just 1 incident. But somehow, incident will just occurred probably due to inadequate planned measures. How many measures are enough? If someone is able to tell you an exact number of measures to prevent 1 particular incident, this guy is a con man!

Establishing reasonably practicable and adequate measures is a big challenge. There is no way to measure “reasonably practicable”, because this depends on available resource, available budget, available technology, commitment of staff, practicality, productivity, and so on. This however, has become a “benchmark phrase” by the Authority when drafting the workplace safety and health legislation. In any prosecution case, it is up to the Defendant to demonstrate that what he / she had done is “reasonably practicable”.

In ISO 45001, it stated that “elimination of hazards and reduction of OH&S risks” is to adopt the principle of Hierarchy of Controls, i.e. elimination, substitution, engineering control, administrative control and personal protective equipment. This principle is also adopted by the latest “Code of Practice for WSH Risk Management” published by Workplace Safety and Health Council. The principle is basically a good thinking flow when establishing control measures to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of incident. However, it all depends on one factor – Human Being. We can have the best technology, engineering control or personal protective equipment to protect our worker, but only when the worker’s attitude is positive and follow the control measures provided, then, he / she is safe.

Workplace Safety and Health Council had developed a programme called CultureSAFE in 2012. This programme provides a platform for organisations to embark on a workplace safety and health culture-building journey. It focuses on cultivating the right mind-set and attitudes in every worker in the organisation. This programme does not target on just changing the behaviour of worker like Behavioural Based Safety, it cultivate a positive safety culture within the organisation, looking into other factors beyond worker’s behaviour.


As shown in the above diagram, organisation will need to establish and maintain a good OH&S Management System in order for workers to follow. Moreover, it will need to create a positive safety environment such that workers will be willingly and comfortably following the OH&S Management System requirement. Eventually, good positive safety attitude will be developed overtime.

CultureSAFE is a good programme structurally addresses six attributes, aiming to cultivating positive safety culture in the organisation. The six attributes are Leadership and Commitment; Governance; Work Management System; Competent & Learning Organisation; Ownership & Teamwork; and Communication & Reporting. It is able to quantify each attribute’s level of safety culture maturity known as “CultureSAFE Index” allowing organisation could set priority and provide necessary resources accordingly.

CultureSAFE programme could be integrated into ISO 45001 OH&S management System and implement concurrently. This approach will not only manage the organisation’s OH&S issues, it will also continually cultivating a positive safety culture in the organisation. Good safety culture is far by the best proactive method of preventing incident and achieves excellent safety performance in the workplace. Eventually, with a good safety culture established in the organisation, reliance on OH&S management System could be reduced.


There were only 6 consultancy firms approved as CultureSAFE Consultant by Workplace Safety & Health Council in 2012. After rigorous application and interview process, QuESH was one of the 6 approved CultureSAFE Consultants. Since then we had assisted hundreds of organisation in embarking on such programme with some of them integrating CultureSAFE requirement into their OH&S Management System. The journey is not easy, but these organisations had already seen the positive results from embarking the programme.

With the new ISO 45001 published, perhaps is a good time to embark on CultureSAFE Programme when upgrading your OH&S Management System. Because we are dealing with Human Beings, we need to go beyond the scientific ways.

As CultureSAFE also becomes the pre-requisite criterion for Annual Workplace Safety & Health Awards Application and project tendering requirement, more and more organisation taking up the programme. Embarking on CultureSAFE not only imrprove the OH&S performance, it also has the positive effect of branding. As of today, there were around 1300 organisations embarked on this CultureSAFE programme and listed their name in Workplace Safety & Health Council's website (Participating Companies & Certificate of Commendation). This figure is 0.5% of the total number of organisation in Singapore. They had demonstrated their commitment towards achieving positive safety culture and perhaps accessing to better business opportunities.


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