Daniel O. Chute, CIH, CSP, is a Principal Consultant for BSI Group.
The emphasis on health, safety and employee well-being in the workplace has become a hallmark of forward-thinking organizations. Employees, consumers and regulators are looking to top management with increasing expectations about issues ranging from work-life balance to work conditions to cybersecurity. The global economy has brought workplace health and safety to the front and center at all levels of an organization and, ideally, throughout their supply chains. ISO 45001 is the new international standard for occupational health and safety; it helps organizations by providing a roadmap for managing risk in an increasingly complex world, while creating more resilient organizations.
This means that health and safety systems can no longer operate in isolation. The focus has progressed from procedure-centric to process-driven management systems. This progression comes with a desire for consistency. Most organizations use generic health and safety guidelines, but there has not been a global standard to streamline commitment to risk prevention up until the publication of ISO 45001, the new international standard for occupational health and safety in March 2018. This standard provides a framework for an occupational health and safety management system and emphasizes explicit prevention of work-related injury and ill-health and the provision of safe and healthy workplaces.
Our rapidly expanding cyber economy relies on some very physical infrastructure—data centers. Increasing data traffic is driving demand for data storage. In fact, we are already producing 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Still, these data centers are real workplaces, with real health and safety needs. I spoke at a recent conference and heard from many companies that one of their major concerns safety in facilities was where their data is stored.
There has been an evolution in technology, design, construction and operation of data centers as demands for data storage, cloud computing power and bandwidth have increased. And with a business, trade and regulatory landscape that is ever-evolving, businesses are coming to the realization that when it comes to health and safety, country or company specific regulations or “best-practices” are no longer enough in this global business environment. Regrettably, workplace injuries and fatalities are on the rise—not the wane.
As more and more devices are connected to the internet and businesses move their data to the cloud, the need for reliable data centers also grows. Customers expect perfect uptime and a data breach, accident or disaster can cause a serious impact to a company relying on that data center. The key to business continuity is managing risk and building trust. And while cybersecurity, data breaches and accidental and intentional incidents are foremost on everyone’s mind, managing employee well-being and health and safety risks are key to resilient data centers. Besides being home to data, these centers are filled with servers, racks, storage elements, generators, and, of course, employees. In fact, data centers have a critical demand for the effective application of functional and responsive health and safety systems to prevent injury, illness, down time or event system failures.
Data centers are finding that their customers are demanding higher standards, and companies are responding with more rigorous scrutiny to meet these higher standards. For health and safety, ISO 45001, which rolled out in March of this year, is a voluntary standard that is an excellent framework for companies to use to take health and safety to a new level. A review of current plans and procedures under the ISO 45001 can assess the risk level the company faces and determine if its clients can rely on the nearly-perfect uptime that fuels our cyber economy.
ISO 45001 introduces the best practices and procedures that will provide all organizations with a process for continual improvement of workplace health and safety. Successful companies want to embed a culture of safety and wellness into their workplace, reducing the likelihood of accidents. ISO 45001 provides that roadmap and is an important tool in data centers and across all other industries to provide the high-level framework that makes it easier for data centers to align health and safety standards with other critical certifications including cybersecurity—which increases efficiencies and results in cost savings. Hiring a consultant to perform a gap analysis and examine existing processes is one way organizations can get started creating a healthier and safer workplace.
The data revolution and Internet of Things rely on the uptime data centers provide and disruptions due to an unsafe workplace are unacceptable. Data centers are becoming an increasingly important part of our economic infrastructure and should strive to be a model for the entire tech industry when it comes to occupational health and safety. For companies that want to embed a culture of health and safety within their organization, ISO 45001 is an excellent starting point to make any workplace one that promotes employee well-being and is safer and healthier overall.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.