The ISO family of management system certification standards all share a common purpose: to ensure that organizations’ products and services consistently meet their customers’ requirements, and that their outputs are measured and gradually improved.

The major management system certification standards all share the same organisational DNA. Whether you want to improve how your company manages its quality processes and systems (ISO 9001), environmental performance (ISO 14001), occupational health and safety processes (ISO 45001), the fundamental considerations are the same.

While this commonality had been acknowledged for a while, the work to reflect it in the standards was only formalized in 2012 with the publication and application of a document called Annex SL.

Behind this obscure title lies a concept that rationalizes quality management systems into a single high-level structure. It imposes a rigid discipline on the organisation of information under several fixed headings.

Core passages are identical, regardless of the management topic, and while the text specific to a particular management topic will be different, the terms used and their definitions are fixed and unchanging.

Annex SL is being applied to each standard as it is being written or naturally as it comes up for review, which happens every four to five years. The most recently updated standard to undergo the Annex SL makeover was ISO 50001 (energy management). ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety), the new incarnation of OHSAS 18001 also published in 2018, is also in the new format.

The deployment of Annex SL delivers several important benefits for those who are looking to operate more than management system certification standard at once or, indeed, those who are looking to transition from pre-Annex SL versions of standards to new ones.

The benefits of Annex SL

The first benefit is that integrating a new management system with an existing one is easier to set up internally because so much of the groundwork has already been covered.  If you’re introducing two or more management systems at once, much of the work overlaps so that the total amount of effort is proportionally less than might have been the case before Annex SL. You’ve already got the structure in place; you’re just hanging different things off it. This saves time, resource and cost.

The second benefit accrues during the certification process itself. Because systems are so closely aligned, audits can be that much more streamlined.

The third benefit arises because integrated third-party certified management systems are less onerous to operate, improving companies’ overall efficiency. For example, when you set objectives, the fact that all objectives are in one place makes it easier to review and improve them.

The two most prominent changes are Clause 4, Context of the organization, which is entirely new, and Clause 5, Leadership, which is strengthened to require much closer senior governance.

Help is available. BM TRADA, for example, offers training to companies on the implications of Annex SL, and to lead auditors hoping to update their knowledge. Also, BM TRADA’s independent auditing and third-party certification services pass on Annex SL’s economies of scale to the customer, a welcome extra incentive, if one were needed.

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