What is the difference between ISO 14001 and ISO 45001?

Published: February 3rd, 2021

Author: Matt Quinn

Categories: ISO Risk Management

In one of our previous articles we looked at the difference between ISO 9001 (Quality Management) and the ISO 14001 standard (Environmental Management). It’s now time to investigate another ISO standard. This article will look at differences (and similarities) between ISO 14001:2015 and another popular management system standard: ISO 45001:2018.


What is ISO 14001?


We have covered this topic elsewhere, but to quickly recap: ISO 14001 is the international standard for Environmental Management Systems.


It sets out the policies and procedures you need to implement to enhance your environmental performance.


The ISO 14001 standard helps you identify your objectives and determine the processes and resources required to manage your environmental impact. This is done by implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS). The benefits of ISO 14001 include: improved public profile (boost green credentials), improved organizational decision making and improved customer satisfaction.


What is ISO 45001?


ISO 45001 is the international standard for Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Management Systems. Last updated in 2018, it sets out the requirements for organizations looking to implement a OH&S management system. It also provides guidance for its use in everyday environments.


ISO 45001:2018 replaced OHSAS 18001 as the international standard for OH&S management systems. Among other things, the updated standard brings the field into alignment with the rest of the ISO Management System Standards (MSS). It does so by following the ISO High Level Structure (HLS). There is more on this below.


The purpose of an OH&S management system is to enable organizations to provide safe and healthy workplaces for their employees. This is done by implementing controls to prevent work related injury and ill-health.


As the standard itself notes, the very nature of work itself necessitates at least some form of OH&S management system. After all, every organization is “responsible for the occupational health and safety of workers and others who can be affected by its activities”. This “responsibility includes promoting and protecting their physical and mental health”.


Like with 14001, organizations of all sizes can implement ISO 45001 to help manage their occupational health & safety requirements. ISO 45001 can also be used by organizations in a variety of different sectors, whether they provide products or services.


Furthermore, organizations can also receive ISO 45001 certification after undergoing an audit one of the accredited certification bodies. Certification can be used to demonstrate to stakeholders that your OH&S management system has been subject to rigorous independent review.


What are the similarities between ISO 14001 and ISO 45001?


As both are ISO Management System Standards (MSS), they share the same overarching form. This is because both follow what is known as the High Level Structure (HLS) – as all ISO MSS do.


As mentioned in our article on Internal Audits & ISO Standards, the HLS was finalized in 2015. It is a set of ten clauses that all ISO MSS must use. This means all MSS have a similar design, which allows for integration between systems from different disciplines (i.e. occupational health and safety and environmental management).


For example, organisations looking to secure certification in both can have an integrated risk register. That is, a combined Environmental Risk Register and Health & Safety Risk Register. (Organisations looking to get started with this can take advantage of our free risk register template).



The HLS uses the same text core text for every MSS and then adds subject matter specific text as needed.


As was covered in our article on the differences between ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, the ten clauses are:


1) Scope

2) Normative references

3) Terms and definitions

4) Context of the organization

5) Leadership

6) Planning

7) Support

8) Operation

9) Performance evaluation

10) Improvement.


What are the differences between ISO 14001 and ISO 45001?


The main difference between the two standards is their subject matter. While they share the same structure, they are focused on very different topics. Organizations looking to implement ISO 14001 are concerned with improving their environmental performance (by reducing their impact on the environment). This is achieved by implemented an environmental management system (EMS).


By contrast, as mentioned above, ISO 45001 is focused on occupational health and safety. And in improving such by implementing an OH&S management system.


As a result of this, ISO 14001 contains controls regarding the identification and management of environmental aspects. Whereas ISO 45001 has provisions concerning social factors affecting employees like workload, work hours and even bullying.


Another difference can be seen in Clause 5 (Leadership). ISO 45001 has a unique sub-clause (5.4) devoted to the “Consultation and participation of workers”. This is included in recognition of the fact that an organization’s OH&S policies and procedures exist to protect workers. Failure to include those ‘on the front line’ in policy and procedure definition runs the risk of measures that are not fit for purpose.




In summary, there are a number of significant differences between ISO 14001 and ISO 45001. This is mainly down to the different topics they deal with. Environmental Management and Occupational Health & Safety are distinct disciplines, necessitating a different approach (e.g. Clause 5.4 in ISO 45001).


However, as both are ISO MSS, they share an underlying structure (the HLS). This means that despite the subject matter specific content present in both, they can be used together at the same time (i.e. integrated) without too much of an administrative burden.


If you are looking to implement either standard, or understand the current state of your management system controls, the first step is to perform a gap analysis. This will help you understand what needs to be done to conform to the standard in question. It will also reveal what you have already implemented, and what more you need to do.


To help with this, we at Apomatix have built an automated tool which can take you through the standards line by line. For more information, please visit our website or book a call with our Head of Operations at a time that suits you.

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