PIAA urges caution with new safety standard

The Printing Industries Association of Australia (PIAA) is warning printers to proceed with caution when considering the new international standard for occupational health and safety systems, ISO 45001, which is being published this week.

The PIAA is supportive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (ACCI) recommendation for businesses to wait for a decision from Standards Australia’s Technical Committee on Occupational Health & Safety Management before moving to adopt the new international standard ISO 45001, occupational health and safety management systems. 

The ACCI is currently in discussions with Standards Australia about how the standard will be integrated into Australian practice, if at all, with a decision not being expected before the end of the year.

Paul Mitchell, national workplace relations manager for PIAA says, “The printing and packaging industries are certainly concerned about the scope of this new standard.

“Australia has one of the most stringent existing occupational health and safety frameworks. Any additional burden on business or further hoops to jump through over and above what is reasonable, should be met with caution. At the end of the day the new international standard should complement existing law, not complicate it.”

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The PIAA says it supports the ACCI’s view that Standards Australia’s Technical Committee is the best body to determine how the new international standard will fit into the Australian regulatory landscape, if at all. 

Mitchell says, “We appeal for engagement with industry and employers to best understand how to straddle an increase in regulation with genuine business efficacy concerns.”

Jennifer Low, associate director for Work Health and Safety at ACCI says, “We are in discussions about what will be happening with the standard today with the committee. There are conflicts with the building code, but we are more concerned with consequences for businesses, where the new standard overrides contractual obligations. There are issues for small businesses to know that.

“The devil is in the detail and Standards Australia has not yet had the opportunity to evaluate the final version of ISO 45001 against the existing AS 4801 standard and within the context of our legislative and business environment.

“It is not that it is a terrible standard, we only want to make this a seamless transition for Australian businesses. I will reiterate the message to not spend money or resources adapting to the new ISO until the Australian standard is in place.”

James Pearson, CEO of the ACCI says, “There are a number of outstanding issues that need to be addressed. These issues relate to the ability of businesses to viably comply with the international standard, and addressing any potential unintended consequences of the standard conflicting with existing Australian legislation.”

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Low says, “Given the number of issues we have identified, we do not believe that it is possible at this point in time for Australia to adopt ISO 45001 as is, nor may we abandon the field. Consideration must therefore be given to alternatives such as modifying ISO 45001 to suit the local context, developing accompanying guidance for ISO 45001 implementation in Australia or modifying AS 4801 to incorporate desirable aspects of the international standard to align where possible.

“A new Australian safety management system standard is still some way off.  Further investigation of the issues raised, additional engagement with the very employers who will be the ones implementing whichever option is agreed too and more informed discussions around the Standards Australia table are needed. Even if it were approved today, there would be a number of processes and further discussions to be had. I would not expect a decision to be made before the end of the year.

 “In terms of the building code, a business could be non compliant and it would not be black and white or straight forward. We are concerned about businesses accidentally violating the standard.

 “There are a number of different options, we could have mirror adoption over a three year transition or we are considering adoption of ISO45001 with modifications. And how it will be integrated into businesses and their practice, whether it is with a handbook or if they have to make changes will have to be decided.”

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