The relevance of the international Risk Management Standard

It is impossible to review the new international risk management standard as such a standard is a curious beast.

The ISO31000 Risk Management Standard sets down the principles that can apply in a range of industries including, from SafetyAtWorkBlog’s perspective, occupational health and safety.

Australia recently released a draft of a model OHS Act that the government wants to use as a template for uniform OHS laws.  That draft Act included a clause on risk management.  It said under “The principle of risk management”

“A duty imposed on a person to ensure health or safety requires the person:

(a) to eliminate hazards, and risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable; and

(b) if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate hazards and risks to health and safety, to minimise those hazards and risks so far as is reasonably practicable.”

It is likely that those business owners who read the legislation (very few) or the OHS professionals who do (slightly more) will interpret this as having to fix the workplace or, at least, try to make sure no one gets hurt at work.  They may continue the risk management line and look to the Risk Management Standard which will clarify the principles of risk management, as below in slightly edited form,

“Risk management:

  • Creates and protects value
  • Is an integral part of all organisations processes
  • Is part of decision-making
  • Explicitly addresses uncertainty
  • Is systematic, structured and timely
  • Is based on the best available information
  • Is tailored
  • Takes human and cultural factors into account
  • Is transparent and inclusive
  • Is dynamic, iterative and responsive to change
  • Facilitates continual improvement of the organisation”

This is slightly more helpful but still requires translation.  (Even the previous risk management standard needed translation with SAI Global going all-out with at least eight handbooks and a CD explaining the standard.) Below is SafetyAtWorkBlog’s plain English attempt:

  • Get rid of all the safety risks in your workplace or make them safer.
  • Have a documented plan for this and do not take too long.
  • Research the hazards so that you are making the best decision on the best information.
  • Do not cut and paste from somewhere else.
  • Make sure ALL your work colleagues know what you are doing.
  • Make sure that you revisit your plan to see if it is working

These points are based only on the principles. The Standard goes into more detail on each of these elements or principles but it is important to remember that this standard only shows one way of making decisions.  This standard is also only a guideline, even though some of the text talks about “complying”.

A couple of comments on an OHS discussion forum about the risk management standard described it as being irrelevant to workplace safety, boring and “causing eyes to glaze over”.  One suggested that the focus needs to be on establishing a suitable organisational culture.  There is a lot to learn from the Standard but perhaps for the OHS professional more so than the client. Perhaps it is best to limit this standard to establishing the decision-making process itself and to leave the application of the decisions to others.

When the Australian risk management standard was first introduced, the narrow application was useful and appropriate but then the commercial possibilities became apparent and SAI Global capitalised on the Standard and tried to make it all things to all people.

The idea of keeping decision-making simple is always relevant but it seems to operate in a cycle from simple to increasingly complex to deconstruction back to simple.  Maybe we are at the start of the next cycle.

Kevin Jones

Categories business, consultation, OHS, risk, safety, standards, UncategorizedTags ,

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