ISO 45001:2018 chooses its words carefully.
While ISO 45001:2018 – Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use is nonprescriptive, its international guidelines provide a framework intended to make workplaces safe through an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system. This system is successful by identifying, establishing, and maintaining OH&S objectives and processes based on relevant risks. Involving top management and all levels of the organization, these processes should be evaluated upon completion for the purpose of continual improvement.
Now, it is important to clarify that continual improvement differs from continuous improvement, especially considering that the two potentially could be used interchangeably. To avoid misunderstandings, this clarification is provided under the Terms and definitions section of Annex A in ISO 45001:2018.
According to ISO 45001:2018, continuous indicates duration without interruption, while continual indicates duration that occurs over a period of time with intervals of interruption.
The latter certainly seems more suitable for the processes of a system intended to safeguard employees from injury and illness, since these processes are implemented before they are evaluated under the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.
ISO 45001:2018 recommends that organizations evaluate their completed OH&S processes for continual improvement, not continuous. This is just something to remember when using the document to keep your workplace safe.
ISO 45001:2018 – Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use is available on the ANSI Webstore.