After over a year since the Covid-19 pandemic first gripped the world, the future workplace has started to take shape. Now ISO 45005 hopes to simplify this picture for businesses and organisations across the world. Painfully obvious is the knowledge that a global pandemic can often be prevented by simple measures; but as has been seen in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, getting ahead pays great dividends.
Equally important is having the right practices in the workplace so that when the next health issue arises, there is a greater chance that business can continue as usual. Not only is this a great insurance policy to have against the future pandemics and epidemics, but it really represents best practice in workplace health and safety. The experts across the globe long debated since the start of the pandemic how best to approach social distancing, lockdowns and personal protective equipment (PPE), but many agreed that the fundamentals are largely indisputable. In the interest of workplace health and safety both in countries where the Covid-19 pandemic still has a very large impact on the working life and countries where the impact is much less, the International Organization for Standards (ISO) have developed a new standard. ISO/PAS 45005; – ‘General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic’.
The ISO 45005 standard represent views from experts on occupational health and safety (OHS) in a pandemic and as the name suggests; guides organisations to enact safe working conditions. Martin Cottam, Chair of ISO/TC 238 – ISO’s top OHS committee, believes that agility and flexibility are key to mastering safety in business in the post-Covid-19 world. Where certainty has taken a back seat, unpredictability requires organisations to be able to shift with laws, regulations and simply what is safe to do. Just as working from home took centre stage for many businesses and employees during the pandemic, being digitally savvy isn’t going anywhere from the list of needs. Organisations that were managing their business inspections before Covid-19 were the ones that saw a continued ability to adapt to new business opportunities and change to industry regulations much quicker than the paper-based working setups. In this sense, there is hope from the ISO that ISO 45005 is adopted quickly thanks to many organisations expanding their digital capabilities. In discussing working from home and managing workplaces effectively Martin Cottam describes that many roles require a physical presence and interaction with others. That what is manageable for one person may not be for another. One lesson is the need to tailor measures both to the organisation and individual.