What is High-level Structure in ISO Standards

In the ISO standards context, High-level Structure (HLS) describes a standardised way of developing future ISO management system standards in a manner that they support each other. This initiative consists of common terms, similar core text, basic definitions, and all management system standards requirements.

This standardisation facilitates compatibility among the many management system standards to foster their integration with certified bodies. It also aims at ensuring quality and consistency in the production of ISO standards. The HLS consists of the following ten core clauses:

  • Scope – This defines the setting of the ISO standard. For instance, in terms of quality, we have the customer in mind, while Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is mostly about workers. The management system requirements are generic and applicable to most organisations, no matter the size, type, and product provided.
  • Normative References – This clause is intended to keep the numbering in alignment and indispensable with other ISO standards. Currently, there are no normative references for the upcoming updates of ISO 14001, ISO 9001, and ISO 45001.
  • Terms and Definitions – Each ISO standard will feature general management system terms and definitions as well as those specific to the discipline. A few standards like ISO 14001 and AS/NZS 4801 have already incorporated specific terms and definitions.
  • Context of the Organisations – This clause outlines the internal and external issues that influence organisations. Internal issues will include factors like company culture, values, and knowledge. External issues include cultural, economic, technological, and legal issues, which can either be local, national, or international.
  • Leadership – This clause defines the role of top management. Management needs to implement policies to ensure that responsibilities and authorities are clearly defined. They also have a general responsibility of facilitating discipline within the organisation.
  • Planning – You’re now required to implement a risk-based approach to manage risks and opportunities. It also ensures that the integrated management system functions correctly to prevent undesired effects and facilitate improvement.
  • Support – The support clause outlines the resources needed to support the current management system. These resources include a competent workforce, measuring equipment, infrastructure, and a conducive environment.
  • Operation – These are processes for operations, acceptance indicators, and contingency policies for conformance. They replace the operational control, hazard identification, product realisation, control of risks, and risk assessment in ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
  • Performance Evaluation – This includes evaluation, data analysis, measurement, monitoring, internal audit, and management review. For example, ISO 9001 needs monitoring of customer satisfaction while ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 require evaluation for compliance.
  • Improvement – Companies are required to respond diligently to non-conformities, address incidents, take preventive action, and control consequences. They are also expected to continually improve their management system’s suitability, effectiveness, and adequacy.
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Although future management system standards should have to share common characteristics, organisations are required to develop systems that meet the needs of their business, people, and interested parties. At Best Practice Biz, we can help you implement the best ISO certification that meets the unique needs of your company. Contact us today to get started.

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