An employee washes their hands at a sink

Working safely in a pandemic – new international guidelines

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world of work upside down and employers are faced with challenges never seen before. Recognising the need for comprehensive yet generic guidance on protecting staff while continuing to function effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic, ISO occupational health and safety (OH&S) experts have developed a new standard.

While the average ISO International Standard takes three years to develop, the newly published ISO/PAS 45005, Occupational health and safety management – General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic was developed in just three months in response to the urgency of the situation and the need for such information now.

ISO/PAS 45005 brings together international best practice on how to manage the health and safety of employees and stakeholders during the COVID-19 pandemic and is intended to complement any existing national guidelines and regulations.

Experts from 26 countries have produced the guidelines in the form of a publicly available specification (PAS), which was approved by the 80 member countries of ISO’s technical committee for occupational health and safety management. This format allows the document to then be updated in its present form or be developed into a formal standard, depending on the future course of the pandemic and emergence of new information. 

Sally Swingewood, Manager of the committee that developed the document, said it provides practical recommendations on managing any risks arising from COVID-19 and is applicable regardless of an organisation’s location or status.

Said Swingewood:

“We recognise that not every business has a dedicated human resources or OH&S function. Therefore, the guidance is practical and appropriate whatever their size, and irrespective of the approach taken to managing the pandemic in their particular jurisdiction.”

ISO/PAS 45005 was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 283, Occupational health and safety management, whose secretariat is held by BSI, ISO’s member for the UK. It can be purchased from your national ISO member or the ISO Store. It has also been made freely available in read-only format on the ISO website to support global efforts in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.