What is the High-Level Structure in Annex SL & its Benefits?

The term “Annex SL” is, often, used in conjunction with Management System Standards, such as ISO 14001, ISO 9001 & ISO 45001. So what is Annex SL? And how does affect my Management System based on ISO 14001, ISO 9001 or ISO 45001.

This article looks at Annex SL, how it is used to develop Management System Standards, such as ISO 14001, ISO 9001 & ISO 45001 & what is means to organisations looking to develop an integrated Management System embracing more than one ISO Standard.

Background to Annex SL
Annex SL is the biggest change that has come to ISO management system standards (MSS) in recent years. Annex SL is a High-Level Structure (HLS) described in ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1, which provides direction to standards writers by setting out guidelines which include a generic structure for requirements as well as common terms and text.

It should be noted that the Annex SL approach applies to Type A Management System Standards, which provide requirements as well as Type B Management System Standards, which provide guidelines. More about that in the bonus section of this episode.

Overall Structure for Management System Standards
In the past, Management System Standards would have similar underlying concepts and approach but there would be differences, particularly in the Clause reference with complex correspondence tables identifying all the differences and the similarities between the standards that you intended to implement.

With the Annex SL – Appendix 2, all new Management System Standards will be based on the same underlying framework, and older standards will be updated.

This High-Level Structure follows the following main headings:

Let’s, now, look at the individual High-Level Structure for each of the Clauses requirements recognising that the General and Introduction sections will be standard-specific and that they do not set out specific requirements for the Management System Standard.

Firstly, let’s look at Clause 3 – Terms and definitions

Here, Annex SL defines key terms with applicability across all Management System Standards.

These include:

The first requirements clause is Clause 4 – Context of the organization.
This Clause requires an understanding of the issues that can affect, either positively or negatively, the organization and its ability to achieve its intended outcomes. It covers the internal and external issues, the needs and expectations of Interested Parties & the boundaries to determine the scope of the Management System.

Next comes, Clause 5 – Leadership to highlight the role of top management to provide an emphasis on the accountability of top management, such as the CEO or other most senior management, and their actions to demonstrate its leadership. It covers the requirements such as establishing organizational policy, defining clear roles, responsibilities and authorities to be able to achieve the intended outcomes.

To provide planning for the management system, Clause 6 – Planning covers the organization’s planning to implement the management system & the achievement of the intended outcomes with consideration of its risks and opportunities & actions to address them. Additionally, this Clause includes the need to define organizational objectives & the planning of changes.

This planning is followed by Clause 7 – Support to put in-place the requirements of all the necessary support to implement the plan and operate the changes. This Clause covers support in terms of resources, competency, awareness, communication & documentation.

With planning and support in-place, Clause 8 – Operations highlights the requirements, which will vary to a greater or lesser extent due to the Standard specific requirements. Here, the requirements for the organisation to deploy the planning carried out under Clause 6 covering planning, implementing & management of its processes at the operational level including any externally provided processes.

As an opportunity to check that the Management System is functioned correctly, Clause 9 – Performance Evaluation covers the requirements for monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation of the Management System and its processes (including process inputs and results) to determine the extent to which the planned activities are realised & planned results are achieved. This Clause includes the familiar requirements for Internal Audit & Management Review.

Finally, Clause 10 – Improvement covers the requirements for the continually improvement of the Management System with specific requirements deal with the management of nonconformities & corrective actions. Preventative actions are not specified as this is considered to be an action to be taken under the requirements for Clause 6 on Planning.

So, to summarise:

Annex SL (or the High-Level Structure) offers a more, consistent structure for the popular Management System Standards and this can allow better integration of Management Systems using two or more ISO Standards.

A large number of organisations look to have a Management System covering Quality, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety requirements based on ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 with each of these ISO Standards based on Annex SL, it is easier to integrate the various requirements into one integrated Management System.

As a bonus, I have identified the key Management System Standards, which fall under the Type A, which provide requirements, which have been developed with the Annex SL High-Level Structure including the most popular Management System Standards:

These popular ISO Standards are joined by over 30 other Management System Standards, such as:

Additionally, Type B Management Systems Standards, which provide guidelines covers ISO Standards with the High-Level Structure, such as:

If this article has helped to advance your understanding of development of Management System Standards to the High-Level Structure given in Annex SL & the opportunities for the integration of Management Systems, please leave a comment in the box below, if this article has help you.

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    1. Good question – The High-Level Structure (HLS) was derived from an Annex in the ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1. These annexes are given a single-letter, such as Annexes (A through K) & those applicable only to ISO appear in Annexes prefixed with the letter “S,” such as SA, SB, SC, etc. Previously, the High-Level Structure was located in this area, hence, Annex SL.

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