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10 things you need to know about the ISO 2015 revisions – STEP 2

10 things you need to know about the ISO 2015 revisions – STEP 2

In my first blog ISO Publication and Beyond, I provided an update on the publication of the ISO Standards, and a quick summary of any key changes, together with useful links and information on the new standards. This second blog in the series looks at the Higher Level Structure (HLS) which is now being used for all new and revised management system standards. The HLS approach is a logical and sensible idea to try and harmonize the basic structure and content of all management system standards, and is defined under an ISO Directive in Annex SL (just in case that reference crops up in other blogs and documentation).


The High Level Structure covers several main features:

– A common set of 10 main clauses which every management system standard must contain
– Some defined mandatory sub-clauses under each of the 10 main clauses
– Under each clause mandatory worded content which has to be included in every standard

So……. every management system standard consists of the same main clause headings, the same mandatory sub-clause headings, and some mandatory text which is common to all standards.

But…. each management system standard can then contain additional sub-clauses and additional text to provide the focus for that specific standard and its bespoke requirements.

To show you what we mean……

The mandatory HLS clauses are as follows:

1 Scope
2 Normative References
3 Terms and references
4 Context of the organization
5 Leadership
6 Planning
7 Support
8 Operation
9 Performance evaluation
10 Improvement

These main clause headings won’t be changing- they have been agreed by ISO as the HLS for all management system standards- and you can find this already in use in more recent standards such as ISO 55001:2014 Asset Management and ISO 27001:2013 Information Security Management. As an example let’s review Clause 4 Context of the Organization. Both ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 contain the mandatory sub-clause headings of:

4.1 Understanding the organization and its context
4.2 Understanding the needs and expectations of interested parties
4.3 Determining the scope of the management system
4.4 The management system

The ISO Committees could have agreed to add further sub-clauses to each of their standards if they felt it was relevant, but for Clause 4 they both decided to stay with only the mandatory sub-clauses, and provided some of their own local additional text to add focus for more quality-critical or environment-critical issues within each sub-clause.

Under Clause 8 Operation, the only mandatory sub-clause is:
8.1 Operational planning and control
But here we see some significant divergence between the ISO 9001 Committee and the ISO 14001 Committee on additional sub-clauses, namely:

For ISO 9001:
8.2 Requirements for products and services
8.3 Design and development of products and services
8.4 Control of externally proved processes, products and services
8.5 Production and service provision
8.6 Release of products and services
8.7 Control of nonconforming outputs

For ISO 14001:
8.2 Emergency preparedness and response

Pretty different in terms of additional content! But actually not significantly different in headings and structure of sub-clauses than those under Clause 7 of ISO 9001:2008 and Clauses 4.4.6 and 4.4.7 of ISO 14001:2004.
So hopefully you can see how ISO has approached the idea of finally adopting a common approach to the basic structure and content of management systems, whilst allowing individual management system standards to be ‘tailored’ to their own respective issues and focus areas.

This covers aspects of the Higher Level Structure. In the next blog –  Clauses 1, 2 and 3 – Scope, Normative References and Terms and Definitions, I will start to look at some of the key changes being driven by the new standards and structures. What is both interesting and logical is that the more important changes are COMMON to both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001- or to any management system. Why is that logical? Because the fundamental principles of any management systems are based on a set of common principles.


Contact us for support: Transition to the ISO 2015 revisions

Do you have questions related to  the ISO 9001:2015 & ISO 14001:2015 revisions? Post them in our LinkedIn group , and our auditors Doug Milne and Niall Pembery will get back to you.


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