• Andrew Thornhill

How to assess context of the organisation (Clause 4.1 of the ISO Standards)

In this blog you will learn how to assess the context of the organisation as required by Clause 4.1.


This is a new requirement across the following standards:

  • ISO 45001 standard (Occupational Health and Safety Management)

  • ISO 14001 (Environmental management)

  • ISO 9001 (The quality management standard)


The term is a bit of a mouthful, but what the clause is really saying is: as an organisation, you need to identify both the internal and external issues that could impact or affect your ability to achieve the intended performance - whether that be environmental, safety or quality focused.


If you read the standard for this clause, it gives some guidance and notes about internal issues and sources for some of those external issues.


The template that I am referring to in this video can be downloaded from our resources page - Risk Opportunity and Objective Register.


We use this with some of our customers as an output of this assessment risk using the following steps:


1. Identify Internal and External Issues:

Internal issues may include the loss of key staff or aging machinery

External issues may include changes in regulations, or increase in competition.


2. Determine how those create a risk or opportunity:

RISK: Something that could impact on what we are trying to achieve

OPPORTUNITY: How does that facilitate our ability to achieve what we are trying to achieve?


3. Identify Related Objectives:

What objectives are we going to put into place to try and address this?


4. The rest of the table is an action plan.

To address a particular internal or external issue, do we need to take further action? What mitigation or facilitation action and who is going to do it?

The template referred to in this video (Risk Opportunity and Objective Register) is available to download from our resources page. It is an excel spreadsheet with additional columns.


Head to Resources > Resources Referred to on YouTube > Risk Opportunity and Objective Register


This means that during management reviews you can add quarterly updates, any changes in those internal or external issues, progress on your actions, and track whether you are heading toward achieving the objectives related to that.


If you read through this clause carefully, you will realise that although it's mandatory to identify internal and external issues, the standard itself does not mandate that you have a defined output /register. It also does not mandate that you must define a method for this. But a register is a nice simple way for you to do that, which is why we would recommend having one.

I personally think 4.1 is a great clause.


I have seen in the past, an environmental management system which worked well for 3-4 years, but things constantly change internally and externally.


This may result in the system no longer meeting your needs and allowing you to achieve the kind of environmental performance desired.


What clause 4.1 is really getting you to do is look at what is ahead on the horizon that could impact your intended performance - whether that be internal or external to your organisation.

If you have any questions related to this clause, feel free to contact me through the website and we will be in contact to answer an queries.

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