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    ISO 45001 Consultancy: How to be a successful OH&S Consultant


    Could you make a successful career in OH&S management consulting? What ISO 45001 training is needed?

    Dr John FitzGerald writes ...

    "Having worked for 28 years as a management system consultant I’ve learned a lesson or two (including some bitter ones) on setting up and running a successful ISO 45001 consultancy business.  So I’d like to share my experience with you in this article.  This time, in relation to Consulting in Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems.

    Of course, you must use the information and suggestions here at your own peril; ultimately it is you who must decide whether this life is for you.  And if you don’t find the prospect of working as a health and safety consultant exciting, don’t do it.  If you do, read on."

    First, we'll consider 'What it Takes' and then examine 'Business start-up plan for the OHSMS Consultant - an 11-step plan'.

    Table of Contents

    What it Takes to be a Successful OHSMS Consultant

    To be a successful ISO 45001 or OHSMS Consultant, you will need capabilities and competencies under five headings: fortitude, finance, experience, knowledge & expertise, and personal attributes. You will need to be able to tick every box, almost.


    • suitable and stable private life
    • the ability to take disappointment
    • prepared to work 16 hours plus per day
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    • sufficient funds to survive while building a reputation – self-employment puts great strain on relationships
    • sufficient knowledge of financial accounting to manage and control a small business


    • a minimum of 10 years relevant experience - as standards become less prescriptive the need for extensive experience expands
    • relevant expertise at senior management or technical for the economic sectors in which you propose to offer services
    • the ability to talk-the-talk (and no BS) and in-depth knowledge of the OH&S hazards common to the workplaces of the economic sector you are targeting.
    • experience in conducting OH&S risk management evaluations
    • keep ahead of current and prospective clients in terms of regulatory changes (and their effectivity dates), guidelines, national and international accident statistics (and their interpretation), etc.
    • extensive auditing experience – internal audits and supplier evaluations (though the latter are infrequent)
    • professional auditing experience working with a certification body (preferably as lead auditor)
    • If the opportunity arises, work for an established consultancy – you will learn about what works and what doesn’t work.

     Knowledge & Expertise

    • a relevant third-level qualification in a technical subject,
      • in-depth knowledge of local, national, and international occupational health and safety (OH&S) regulations, codes of practice, and guidelines,

      • thorough knowledge and understanding of:
      • typical OH&S Safety equipment and its proper use,
      • typical Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans, and
      • monitoring and measurement of workplace environments and the related equipment (especially noise monitoring equipment, dust measurement methods and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
    • membership of relevant professional bodies.


      Chart showing a list of all available ISO 45001 courses including their purpose and duration

    Available ISO 45001 courses image map. Just click on any course you are interested in to learn more about them.


    Personal attributes

    • personable, without gushing
    • patient, but determined
    • self-starter, you will have to provide leadership
    • gregarious, but not a lush
    • confident, but not domineering
    • well-spoken without the liberal use of expletives
    • principled, and a respecter of confidentiality
    • conscientious, and meeting your deadlines

    12 Steps to Become an OHSMS Consultant

    If you want to start a business based on OHSMS consultancy, there are twelve steps you need to go through:

    Step 1: Identify the market niche best suited to your Knowledge and Experience

    Begin by identifying the economic or market niche that matches your skillset.

    Step 2: Acquire the Certifications, Licenses and Professional Body Memberships


    While usually not a barrier to working as an ISO 45001 consultant, certification and memberships will help build credibility with prospective clients.

    Step 3: Decide Your Short and Long-Term Goals

    Set goals for your business, and for your private life, looking three months, one year, and 10 years ahead. 

    Discuss and agree on these goals with your spouse or partner - the stress and financial pressure of being self-employed can be very destructive of relationships, especially where the other person is naturally risk-averse.

    Step 4: Choose Your Target Market

    Identify organizations and organization types in your market sector that can benefit from the use of your services for a short period of time. 

    Focus on sectors experiencing, or about to experience, significant statutory or regulatory change or that have had a recent environmental disaster. 

    Here the disruptive event creates an opportunity for you – people are more likely than usual to listen and to be willing to accept the changes you suggest.

    Step 5: Research Your Target Market and Your Competition

    What needs, problems, and opportunities can your target organizations successfully address using your services?

    You need to be able to tell your clients why they need you:

    • Do they require certification ISO 45001 alone?
    • Do they need ongoing expert advice on OH&S matters?
    • Do they need support in carrying out internal audits and in the management of the OHSMS?
    • Do they wish to conduct OH&S audits of current and prospective suppliers?

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    Step 6: Prepare a Business Plan

    The old adage is very true: organizations that fail to plan, plan to fail!  No startup business plan has ever matched the outcome, even closely.  But if you can’t make it work on paper, you won’t be able to make it work. 

    Preparing a business plan yourself is a huge learning exercise in itself and critically important. 

    Except perhaps for financial projections, you cannot/must not outsource this aspect of starting your consultancy.  Like marketing and sales for a new business, you must do it yourself.

    Step 7: Minimise your expenditure except where it really matters - consider a Home Office

    When you fail to fully reach your short-term turnover targets, and you will (just ask any self-employed consultant you know), you do not want any regular monthly outgoings that can be avoided. 

    Work from home, don’t take on any mortgage or borrowings, rent a car month-to-month, buy second-hand equipment.  You want to be able to survive while you build the business.

    But you will need an appropriate car and you will need to be well dressed.  If you don’t look as if you’re already successful, you won’t sign up for much business.  Prospects will judge you on appearances – do you look and sound professional – they have little else to judge you on.  You must look the business to so the business.

    Step 8: Build Your Network

    If no one knows you and you know no one in your field, you may find yourself in the midst of a disaster soon. It is important to start building your network as soon as you have decided to be a consultant.

    A strong contact base ensures that you have the sources to find work. A professional network, coupled with a social network, can help you market and advertise your business.

    References are also important ways to find work in the niche. Rely on your initial contact base to build your network.

    Step 9: Fix your Fees and the way to bill Clients

    As a beginner, you may not receive high fees as a consultant. Your charges increase as you become known as a consultant. Keep in mind your credentials and experience as well as market conditions, your target group and your competitors when you fix your fees.

    Also, decide how you will bill clients. Most management system consultants charge by the day or half-day and invoice at the end of the month (or on completion, if before month-end).  Payment within 7 days is usually requested.

    Step 10: Arrange your Marketing and Promotion

    Forget about advertising whether traditional or online.  It is expensive and unlikely to produce results quickly.  Instead, take the time to build a social media presence including…

    • A website with blog/news,
    • YouTube business page,
    • LinkedIn business page, and
    • Google+ business page

    A prospective customer can use these media to judge your capabilities.  Without them, a prospect will ask themselves why you do not have an online presence.

    Step 11: Don’t hire permanent Staff

    You may find it easier to handle all tasks of your business on your own when you start. But after your consulting business is up and running, you may need the help of others and you may decide to employ people.

    Check both legal and tax details before you do this. You may also outsource some tasks that do not require your immediate attention.

    Make sure that the tasks are not connected to your consulting business. For example, you can outsource website maintenance for a consulting business, but not when it is your niche.

    Step 12: Fastina lente (hasten slowly)

    Don’t give up the ‘day job’ and start consulting.  Wait until all the previous 10 steps are essentially completed, seek out a ‘banker’ contract. For example, get one or more contracts working, say, 4/5 days a year maintaining an organization’s OHSMS – use your network of contacts to seek out such opportunities.

    Many ISO 45001 consultants also have ongoing relationships with Certification Bodies where they act as lead auditors and team auditors – an intermittent (and legitimate) arrangement that suits both parties.

    Only when you are confident that you can make a living from consulting should you give up the day job.  And then ‘go for it’ working harder and longer than you have ever done before.

    Best of luck!

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    Written by Dr John FitzGerald

    Director & Founder of deGRANDSON Global. Spent 15 years in the manufacturing industry and 25 years training, consulting & auditing management systems
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