New GRI OHS Standard Has Significant Implication on Health & Well-being

Occupational health and safety has been given much more attention in recent years, especially after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic when corporates realized that human resources are arguably their most important assets. Ensuring workers’ wellbeing has become a key concern for many businesses, acting as the wherewithal to long-term sustainability. This is particularly prominent in the real estate and construction industry, given the nature of the sector that exposes it to higher risks of hazards. These companies, especially their construction subsidiaries, are more susceptible to occupational injuries, hence they are expected to pay extra attention to complying with and often exceeding beyond the requirements in place. 

In about four months’ time, the new GRI 403: Occupational Health and Safety 2018 standard will be effective. Issued by the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), GRI’s independent standard-setting body, the standard represents internationally agreed best practices and recent developments in occupational health and safety management and reporting. 

Aligning with key International Labour Organization (ILO) instruments, as well as the ISO 45001 standard, this new reporting standard addresses key challenges around reporting of occupational health and safety impacts, for example, low comparability of data, lack of leading indicators, over reliance on productivity measures, and risks related to lifestyles, e.g., poor diet and lack of physical activity.

Below are 5 things to know about the new GRI 403 standard.

  1. The new standard is aligned with the SDGs, ILO, and ISO

The GRI 403 standard is aligned with other well-known standards and instruments. The ILO, for example, recognizes healthy and safe work conditions as a human right and addresses this in its key instruments. Healthy and safe work conditions are also a target of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  1. Broad scope of “workers” to reflect modern ways of working

Given the emergence of new trends and technologies, employers must broaden their definitions of who is considered a ‘worker’. Under the new standard, employers are expected to include in their reporting data any worker controlled by the organization, or workers whose health and safety are directly impacted by the organization’s operations, products or services. Real estate companies tend to involve a lot of contractors and sub-contractors, which under the new standard are considered to be ‘workers’; meanwhile, interns, volunteers, remote workers, self-employed individuals, and even employees of suppliers should be included and protected as well.

  1. The standard covers both prevention of physical and mental harm and promotion of workers’ health

Hazard identification and risk assessment, worker training, and incident identification and investigation are key to planning, supporting, operating, and evaluating the occupational health and safety management system.  In the past, employers tended to think safety in terms of preventing harm. Today, workers’ health can be promoted through offering healthcare services, alongside mental health counseling services to ensure physical and mental wellbeing of workers. For instance, annual medical check-ups could be provided to construction workers who are mostly performing manual labour that encompasses one’s physical health. 

  1. It emphasizes the use of leading indicators

Leading indicators are critical to help employers get ahead of safety issues before they cause an accident. For example, the number of workers trained in hazard identification and incident reporting, the frequency of audits, and the average time it takes to implement the recommendations. Some possible actions could include safety planning in advance of scheduled construction work, accompanied with regular security inspections during the course.

  1. Assessing impact on workers’ recovery from injuries — beyond lost time

Lost time tells us about the impact of an injury on the organization’s productivity — not the extent of harm to the worker. The new GRI standard proposes the use of “recovery time” as a better way to measure the severity of an injury. Recovery time refers to how long it takes for an employee to return to the pre-injury health status, not just how long it takes to return to work. An example to illustrate this would be the time required for a construction worker to fully recover from an accidental fall at a site.  

Under the new standard, employers are required to provide a breakdown of any injuries that result in a fatality or from which the worker cannot, does not, or is not expected to recover fully to pre-injury health status within 6 months.

Overview of GRI 403 Disclosures
Scope of “workers” to be coveredManagement approach disclosuresTopic-specific disclosures
All workers who are employees
All workers who are not employees but whose work and/or workplace is controlled by the organization
Disclosure 403-1 Occupational health and safety management system Disclosure 403-2 Hazard identification, risk assessment, and incident investigationDisclosure 403-3 Occupational health servicesDisclosure 403-4 Worker participation, consultation, and communication on occupational health and safetyDisclosure 403-5 Worker training on occupational health and safetyDisclosure 403-6 Promotion of worker healthDisclosure 403-8 Workers covered by an occupational health and safety management system Disclosure 403-9 Work-related injuriesDisclosure 403-10 Work-related ill health
All workers who are not employees and whose work and workplace are not controlled by the organization, but the organization’s operations, product or services are directly linked to significant occupational health and safety impacts on those workers by its business relationshipsDisclosure 403-7 Prevention and mitigation of occupational health and safety impacts directly linked by business relationships