ISO has just completed work to provide identical structure, text and common terms and definitions for management system standards of the future. This will ensure consistency among future and revised management system standards and make integrated use simpler. It will also make the standards easier to read and, in so doing, be understood by users.
Three management system standards have already been published in this new harmonized format with another seven on the way. Both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 will follow the new outline during their revision process.
ISO has over the years published many management system standards for topics ranging from quality and environment to information security, business continuity management and records management. Despite sharing common elements, ISO management system standards come in many different shapes and structures. This, in turn, results in some confusion and difficulties at the implementation stage.
From theory to practice
All technical committees developing management system standards have to follow Annex SL in the new consolidated ISO Supplement. Annex SL harmonizes structure, text and terms and definitions, while leaving the standards developers with the flexibility to integrate their specific technical topics and requirements. Box 1 includes the high level structure and examples of definitions and identical text.
Box 1 : Examples from the new Annex SL
High level structure :
Example of identical definitions :
Organization, interested party, policy, objective, competence, conformity.
Example of identical text :
Top management shall ensure that the responsibilities and authorities for relevant roles are assigned and communicated within the organization.
There are subtle language issues such as the change from document and records to documented information, to the use of IT and other tools to illustrate what is being done. The new text recognizes the use of the broad concept of risk and the need to understand risk in the context of the management system. It also encourages everyone to view preventive action as a broader concept than simply preventing an incident from re-occurring.
No challenge is too big
Any change represents challenges and opportunities. And this is no exception. Over the next few months, we will promote understanding of what this change means to avoid confusion and improve understanding among the affected technical committees, as well as among the users of the standards.
What next ?
It will take a few years before all existing management system standards have been fully harmonized. However, there were an impressive number of standards that used the new format as it was being developed.
Two of ISOʼs flagship management system standards have launched their revision processes (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001) and both will use the new format for their revisions. Box 2 sets out the list of standards that have used the new approach.
The Joint Technical Coordination Group (JTCG) is responsible for the development of the document at the request of the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB). JTCG plans to collect information on user experience in 2012. It is available to answer any questions from standards writers, although users should initially ask their standards developing community.
24 July, 2012.