The international occupational health and safety management systems standard (OHSMS) identically adopted in New Zealand and Australia as AS/NZS ISO 45001, provides businesses with another option to reassure customers and stakeholders of their commitment to health and safety.

However, businesses need to remember that legislation rather than standards determine the protections they are required to provide their workers and other people affected by their work.

AS/NZS ISO 45001 does not specifically reflect all the obligations and duties set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). This means adopting the standard does not necessarily mean a business is complying with the law.

Businesses do not have to use or comply with AS/NZS ISO 45001. Its use is voluntary.

WorkSafe New Zealand produces a range of guidance to assist businesses and workers to understand their rights and obligations under HSWA, including:

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) requires a business implementing a formal health and safety management system to engage with its workers about it before doing so.

Businesses need to remember it is a legal requirement to have workers involved in health and safety, regardless of its size, level of risk or the type of work they do.

A formal OHSMS such as AS/NZS ISO 45001 can support organisations to improve their health and safety performance by establishing clear objectives, and systematically identifying, controlling and reviewing risks.

Managing health and safety is not just about having a health and safety management system. Systems are only effective if the business has a positive health and safety culture and workers and representatives are involved and can effectively participate in health and safety conversations.

Conformance with a formal management system standard does not equal compliance with the law. Focusing too much on the system paperwork can mean less attention on actually managing the work risks.

Five quick facts about New Zealand, Australian, joint AS/NZ, and ISO standards

NZ, AS/NZS, and ISO standards are documents that contain guidance and establish specifications for goods, services and systems.

Standards are developed by domestic and international standards bodies, regulators and industry bodies. Requirements in international standards are not specific to New Zealand.

Standards are not laws and are only mandatory if legislation states that they are. The language and terminology in standards can also differ from legislation.

Businesses may choose to implement New Zealand standards, Australian and New Zealand standards and international standards depending on their business activities.

Businesses implementing standards should do so with reference to and an understanding of the New Zealand legislative framework.