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Certification’s What You Need…?

Keith Hole, aka ‘The Safety Man’, provides us with his advice on understanding what to look out for when it comes to certification.


Certifications What You Need feat
Keith Hole (and Dolly the French Bulldog)

Ok, so for those of a certain age it was “Dedication” that Roy Castle sang on a Friday afternoon at 4:30 on BBC 1. Still, as we will discuss further in this article to succeed in Certification, it isn’t always dedication that’s needed but a clear understanding of the rules.

Certification – what is it?

The Difference Between Certification and Accreditation

It is worth understanding the difference between certification and accreditation.[1]

Certification is the provision by an independent body of written assurance that the product or service meets specific requirements…It’s a badge.

In the approved treatment facility profession, good certification shows that a recognised ISO certification body like the British Standard Institute (BSI) or Technischer Überwachungsverein (TUV) have reviewed your process and procedures and deemed them to meet a required standard.

Many companies will offer you ISO in 2 weeks, or get ISO registered now, and they will issue a certificate. But this is where accreditation comes into it.

Anyone can give you “a badge” as we might now reference it, but does the person issuing the badge have the skills, knowledge and experience to make it mean something?

This is where accreditation is vital as the formal recognition by an independent body, generally known as an accreditation body, that a certification body operates according to international standards.

So next time someone offers you certification in two weeks, check who is accrediting them. It might not be worth the paper it’s printed on.

Why do you want to get certificated?

More and more businesses are now putting their certification stamps (the badge) on their web sites. Everywhere you look there is ISO this and ISO that.

The main three being ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, and ISO 45001:2018. These are for Quality Management System, Environment Management System and Occupational Health, and Safety Management System, respectively.

Let’s look at the paragraphs above and break them down. All the badges are for a Management System that has been Certificated by an Accredited Body.

Not having the badge does not make you a bad company or mean you do not do things properly. You could just as much subscribe to HSG 65[2] Managing for health and safety from the Health and Safety Executive. This, in the same way as ISO 45001 follows the Deming Cycle, or as most know it, “Plan, Do, Check, Act”. A model for continuous improvement.[3]

Having the badge shows that you have a system and are willing for an external body to check its compliance.

To go back to the question of this section of why you want to get certificated. That very much will depend on your needs.

Certification, What’s the Need?

For most businesses, it breaks down to three areas:

  • It’s the right thing for the client
  • It’s the right thing for the business
  • It’s the right thing for you

It’s the right thing for the client

Many companies make the decision to gain certification as their client requests it. They will be unable to win work or operate without it. If this is the need for certification, it is not always the correct business driver. Companies that get certification, as it is the need of the client, often have an integrated management system that is written to fulfil the need for certification. It bears no resemblance to how the business operates but once a year the manual is dusted off, all documents brought up to date, and the audit is completed.

I’m not saying that every business does this, but it’s worth asking yourself the question.

It’s the right thing for the business

This should be the real driver for any business wanting to get certificated in one of the ISOs.

The majority of ISO management standards follow the same structure now and incorporate Plan, Do, Check, Act. This is especially true with some of the most recognisable. E.g. ISO 9001, 14001, 45001, 27001.

By focusing on the seven key areas of a good management framework; the context of the organisation, leadership, planning, support, operation, performance evaluation and improvement, a business can put in place a framework of continuous improvement that drives innovation and efficiency.

This ultimately will lead to increased revenue, improved credibility and improved decision making – Future-proofing your business and its plans.

Believe it or not, you may already be doing many of the things needed for certification already. This is where understanding the rules and questions comes in. As a smaller business owner, reading through any ISO for the first time can be quite daunting, but if you are running a successful business, I can guarantee that you have operational processes in place. Think of it as having just the Do and Check parts of the cycle in place.

It’s the right thing for you

This is the big question and left until last, as without discussing the reasons above, we would not be able to make an educated decision.

Getting certificated is not the be-all and end-all of business. The reason to have a business is to get an income, live a happy life, have happy customers and ensure all your staff go home safe and happy at the end of each day.

For a smaller business, a good management system may be all they need. When I am advising clients, I try to look at what is the right thing to do for the business; what is the company’s ambitions and the effort required in putting in and maintaining these systems, and how we add the Plan and Act part of the cycle.


I don’t often finish articles with a conclusion, but it felt right in this instance. If you are looking at any management system, ask yourself the following:

  • Will it add value to my business?
  • Do I need it certified?
  • Who am I doing it for?

I can state that the first answer should always be yes and that following a management system will help your business.

Thinking about certification as a badge, sometimes it’s the taking part that counts.


About Keith Hole (The Safety Man)

The Safety Man is a mild-mannered safety advisor, just wanting to get everyone home safe. His alter ego, Keith Hole, is a specialist in international accreditation and the implementation of behavioural management techniques in health and safety. He is a serving member of Council and a Chartered Fellow for the global safety body, The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health., supporting close to 50,000 members worldwide.

He plays with old cars and can be found most weekends working on the next great project. He also loves a bit of social media as The Safety Man. You have been warned!

Visit or tweet at 




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