The vast spectrum of options for voluntary certification includes numerous standards which provide an element of added value for any business that chooses this opportunity, significantly enhancing customers’ perception of the company, while also representing a robust framework for business continuity, ensuring that the procedures in place are constantly supervised and monitored.
The legislation currently in force can be found to include a strong call for continuous improvement within companies, an ethos which also provides a valid safeguard for the company’s legal representatives.
Over the last few decades, there has been a sharp increase in voluntary certifications which play an increasingly important, symbolic role for companies in various sectors, from mechanical engineering to catering and services, just to give a few examples.
A business which holds certification of compliance with one or more voluntary standards demonstrates that its working methods are up-to-date and are constantly monitored in line with the best and most advanced criteria for the type of standard in question. It also means being able to show customers that the company is methodical in its operational framework, guaranteeing the quality of its products and services. It distinguishes the company and is an accomplishment that can be verified simply by checking the company’s entry in the Chamber of Commerce register.
In the eyes of the market, a certified company will be considered reliable, as the certification process is carried out by a completely independent, third-party body, thus guaranteeing credibility.
In 2017, PLS chose to certify its safety, quality and environmental management system to BS OHSAS 18001, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards, and its consultants were also trained as lead auditors for the main certification standards. Moreover, two of the founders of the spinoff company, PLS Legal, have had their skills endorsed for many years through certification with high-profile bodies, such as TUV Italia and AICQ SICEV, as DPOs, data privacy assessors and privacy lead auditors in the framework of personal data protection legislation.
ISO 9001 certification is beneficial to both the private and public sectors, increasing confidence in the products and services that companies provide; it adds credibility between partners in business-to-business relationships, in the choice of suppliers in supply chains and when participating in calls for tenders.
The ISO 9001 Standard is probably the most popular of all the ISO standards, millions of companies worldwide make use of it to verify the processes underlying the creation of their products or services.
This standard is firmly oriented towards meeting customer expectations and ensuring that complaints are addressed and handled correctly, it is therefore perceived by customers as a standard which certifies the quality of processes and procedures.
The 9001:2015 is a revised version, conceived with the aim of making implementation more accessible to a wider range of business activities, facilitating its entry into organisations thanks to the use of simpler, less bureaucratic language, so as to foster better and greater comprehension of the requirements.
The major change in the ISO 9001:2015 version is the inclusion of risk-based thinking, i.e., as far as is reasonably possible, foreseeing risks and opportunities in the company’s organisational structure then planning the consequent management actions, as well as establishing and keeping track of quality improvement objectives.
ISO 14001:2015 is structured in a similar way to ISO 9001, but it focuses on compliance with the need to manage environmental impacts with a view to sustainable business development, a key principle for those companies which place ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles and accountability to future generations at the heart of their business model and strategy.
The aim is to promote a common understanding of the entire conformity assessment chain in order to achieve the established results and to reinforce the value and importance of accredited certification.
ISO 14001 certification is often implemented in both the private and public sectors, the aim being to create a certified environmental management system, which may also reduce risks of liability for legal representatives. Certification to the standard means the company’s activities are managed in such a way as to respect the environment while also demonstrating a commitment to:
- compliance with legal and other applicable requirements;
- limiting pollution;
- continual improvement of its environmental management system so as to enhance environmental performance in a global sense, limiting the impact of its activities on future generations.
Certification to ISO 14001 standard means the organisation can demonstrate that:
- procedures are in place to identify statutory and regulatory requirements relating to the environment, to define how these are applied to all environmental issues relevant to its operations, and to keep relevant information up to date;
- an environmental policy appropriate to the scale and impact of the organisation’s activities, products and services has been defined;
- the environmental issues inherent in its activities, products and services have been identified so that they can be managed, monitored and controlled, working on those which could have a significant impact on the environment (including those involving suppliers and contractors);
- effective controls are in place to ensure compliance with legal and other applicable requirements;
- the strategic objectives regarding environmental concerns are clear to everyone and, where feasible, they are also measurable, taking legal requirements and significant environmental factors into due account; programmes, including training, are implemented to achieve these objectives;
- it ensures all personnel working for the organisation are fully engaged, they are aware of the requirements of the environmental management system and they possess the necessary expertise to carry out activities that may have a significant environmental impact;
- internal communication is well handled and it is also clear how to react to and communicate with external stakeholders;
- any significant environmental impact associated with the different company operations has been identified, targeted monitoring and control activities are carried out, and operations that could have a substantial impact on the environment are kept under close control;
- emergency management procedures are in place and, where possible, these procedures are tested to ascertain how to deal with the occurrence of situations that could affect the environment;
- all legal and statutory requirements, including specific local requisites, are reviewed at regular intervals;
- every effort is made to avoid nonconformities or to transform them into an opportunity for the organisation to make improvements by:
- duly dealing with nonconformities that are detected;
- analysing the causes of any nonconformity;
- implementing corrective actions to avoid repetition of the same nonconformity;
the organisation’s management shall carry out a performance review at least once a year through, inter alia, internal and external audits.
The simple model known as the Deming cycle is widely recognised as being the approach applied by all ISO management system standards, also known as Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA).
This easy-to-apply process is also applicable to small and medium-sized enterprises, it provides a framework within which organisations can plan the actions that need to be taken in order to minimise the risk of work-related injury and ill health
The measures established as part of the health and safety management system described in the ISO 45001 standard need to address the concerns of workers, employers and the wider community.
This standard is currently attracting increasing interest from companies operating in various industry and service sectors, as it enables them to comply with the provisions of article 30 of Italian Legislative Decree 81/08 in the light of the administrative responsibilities of companies introduced by Italian Legislative Decree 231/01.
What is more, a study carried out on workplace safety and certification in 2018 by the Accredia Observatory (the Italian Accreditation Body) in collaboration with INAIL (the Italian National Institute for Insurance against Work-related Injuries) and AICQ (the Italian Association for the Culture of Quality), confirmed the effectiveness of certified management systems in preventing accidents, both in terms of the frequency and the severity of accidents.
The study found that “16% fewer accidents occur in certified companies, and when they do, they are, in 40% of cases, less serious than the same accident in a company with a more basic safety level”.
A company which implements the requirements envisaged in the ISO 45001 standard will benefit in many ways, some advantages are:
- improved performance: a well-designed and well-implemented ISO 45001 compliant system helps to reduce work-related injury and ill health;
- improved safety of all interested parties who are involved in company activities in any capacity;
- facilitating a client’s or an employee’s task of choosing one company over another by being in a position to provide details of all the health and safety measures adopted as well as demonstrating due diligence in all business dealings;
- keeping the documentation related to health and safety under close control and gaining greater acceptance by the supervisory authorities, the general public and stakeholders;
- establishing a consistent methodological approach based on best practices for the management of prevention measures;
- reduced insurance premiums;
- support for compliance with the laws in force;
- improved efficiency as well as a reduction in production downtime caused by staff being absent due to accidents;
- improved surveillance by means of monitoring and measuring key performance indicators relative to health and safety;
- acquiring objective management data on which to base decisions regarding, for example, improvements to the company’s range of machinery and equipment;
- having a set of protocols and procedural guidelines and being in a position to demonstrate implementation and subsequent monitoring by a supervisory body.
As well as brand awareness, a correctly applied management system results in economic advantages, such as a reduction in the number of work-related illnesses and accidents, access to funding for investments in safety and prevention, which in turn can allow for reductions in the premiums paid to the Italian National Institute for Insurance against Work-related Injuries (INAIL), as well as funding specifically made available by INAIL itself under the form of incentives for businesses.