Integrated management system standards - Common elements (Part 1)


With this post, I am resumming and updating an analysis of the common elements that management system standards (MSS) contain, within the High Level Structure (HLS) for those standards. 


I want to thank, again, to the readers who have sent comments about these posts, and following their requests regarding the topics covered, in which several of them have asked me to focus more on integrated management systems (IMS), I will gladly do it. Trying to help to establish a common basis for managing and understanding terms and basic elements of management systems standards, I invite you to watch the video "Standards management systems", twelve minutes long, which I hope it will be interesting for you.


ISO management systems standards (MSS) are among the most widely used and recognized documents worldwide. They include standards  such as ISO 9001ISO 14001 and ISO 50001, which apply to quality management, environmental management and energy management, respectively.


One of the fundamental principles is that all standards can work together. Those  organizations that are already using a standard management system in one part of their business and are considering implementing additional ones in another area, will find that the process has been made as intuitive as possible. That is thanks to the High Level Structure (HLS)The concept of HLS is that MSS are structured in the same way, regardless of the domain of application. Users who are familiar with a standard in one management system can immediately feel comfortable with another, even when using it for the first time.


In addition to being presented in the same way, there are some parts of a standard where identical text can be used. This improves consistency and recognition, simplifies use, and is defined in something called “Annex SL”. It means that in addition to having the same structure, MSS can contain many of the same terms and definitions. This is particularly useful for those  organizations that choose to operate a single  management system (sometimes called  "integrated"that can meet the requirements of two or more MSS used simultaneously.


Annex SL plays a key role in the interoperability and usability of the standards for countless users of ISO management system standards around the world.


The ISO / IEC Directives define the basic procedures to be followed in the development of International Standards and other publications. The Consolidated ISO Supplement contains both the ISO / IEC Directives, Part 1, and ISO-specific procedures.


Annex SL uses a High Level Structure (HLS), which is common in most management system standards, which facilitates its interpretation and compliance. The ten chapters that the ISO Annex SL identifies, in order to apply this HLS, are the following:


The concept of HLS is that the MSS are structured in the same way, regardless of the domain of the application.


From the application of this concept, new standards for management systems  emerged. Currently there are 35 Type A standards, which are those that contain requirements and are likely to demonstrate conformity to it, the MSS  shall be so written that conformity can be assessed by a manufacturer or supplier (first party, or self-declaration), a user or purchaser (second party) or an independent body (third party, also known as certification or registration), and 15 Type B standards that establish guidelines, so they are not likely to demonstrate conformity to it, which were developed under the High Level Structure. Among them, the following:


These HLS standards make up a rapidly growing scheme, as you can see. For this reason, the integration of management systems should be considered highly relevant by any productive organization.


The objective of Annex SL is to improve the consistency and alignment of the MSS by providing, through the HLS, a unifying and agreed high level structure, identical basic text and common terms and definitions. The goal is for all Type A MSS (and B where applicable) to be aligned and to improve the compatibility of these standards.  It  is  anticipated   that  individual  MSS will add additional "discipline - specific" requirements as needed.


The term "discipline-specific" is used to indicate specific matters to which a management system standard refers, such as energy, quality, records, the environment, among others.


This common approach to new MSS and future revisions to existing standards will increase the value of those standards for users. It will be particularly useful for those organizations that choose to operate a single management system, or integrated management system, that can meet the requirements of two or more MSS simultaneously.


Before entering into the analysis of each of the chapters that make up the HLS, which go from numbers 1 to 10, which I will do in subsequent articles, allow me to mention some elements that, although not strictly part of the HLS, are present in all MSS, such as Foreword and Introduction.


The foreword describes the organization that has issued this international standard, which is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), indicating which part of its structure, that is, which Technical committee and which Subcommittee are responsible for the development of the standard, as well as some basic elements for its structure and writing. With this preliminary chapter, you can find out who prepares this standard, under what criteria, which is the current version, among several other elements with which you can access more information. It is important that this foreword can justifie that the standard in question is not technical barrier to trade. That is why these mamagement systems standards include the next paragraph: For an explanation on the meaning of ISO specific terms and expressions related to conformity assessment, as well as informtion about ISO's adherence to the World Trtade Organization (WTO) principles in the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) see the following URL:


Although it is not mandatory that every standard must contain an Introduction chapter, Annex SL establishes, within the HLS that that chapter is incorporated in the MSS, without numbering, either to contextualize or give an explanation that is considered valuable for understanding and application of the requirements that will be presented in that standard, specific to the corresponding discipline. This introductory information should not be considered a technical element or requirement of said standard, and therefore it is presented without numbering. However, the subclauses derived from this chapter are identified by numbering 0, that is, from numbering 0.1 onwards.


In this Chapter Introduction, a large amount of very important information is generally placed for the understanding and application of the standardwhich is why it is displayed in several subclausesamong which we can find some of the following:



In order to make it easier to understand the concept of the Plan - Do - Check - Act Cycle, I invite you to watch the short 5 minute video that describes this model. 


In the next post on integrated management systems we will address the topic of Chapter 1 Scope.



Ernesto Palomares Hilton