Meet Katie Bird, ISO’s “Head of Communications” and former Web Content Manager,” who keeps getting promoted no matter how badly ISO’s PR machine gunks things up. Previously it was Roger Frost who had to hold his nose every day and spin ISO’s odd machinations as “totally-normal-nothing-to-see-hear-but-everything’s-amazing!!!111” news snippets. It was Frost who regularly spun the annual ISO Survey numbers to try to convince everyone that the damning data, which routinely showed declining interest in ISO 9001, was nevertheless a testament to ISO’s growing influence. By growing, we assume he meant shrinking.

In the age of “alternative facts,” now it falls on Ms. Bird to take on the role of Spinmeister General. We can’t be sure she’s personally responsible for the latest ISO Secretary General tweets, or the following Facebook post, but we presume whomever did publish these things reports to her, at least. The Facebook post in question increases ISO’s already over-caffeinated self-promotion and raises it to entirely new heights, boldly claiming that ISO will literally save lives.

Did you know that over 6300 people die every day from work-related accidents/diseases? The future #iso45001 will help change that.

Some quick math: 6,300 dead people per day X 365 days per year = 2,299,500. So just by publishing ISO 45001, ISO is going to save over 2.2 million lives every year. Shmowzow!

Remember, ISO doesn’t say “may” or “might” — they say ISO 45001 will help change those numbers. It’s stated as a fact.

Now keep in mind that ISO 45001 is only the old OHSAS 18001 standard rehashed and rebranded, and then recall that OHSAS 18001 has been around since July of 2007. That’s ten years. Which means that using ISO’s logic, the previous OHSAS 18001 standard is actually responsible for the deaths of 22,995,000 people! I think it’s about time the ISO Secretary General were called before the Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity, don’t you?

Of course, I kid. But the marketing language coming out of the Bird House is frustrating. When real people experience real death due to faulty airbag inflators (Takata) or faulty blowout diverters (Deepwater Horizon) or faulty breast implants (PIP) or faulty space shuttles (NASA), ISO takes no responsibility despite having written the quality standards involved. It takes no responsibility for partnering with IAF to oversee the certification schemes that allowed the manufacturers to gain access to the contracts that led to those deaths. So while ISO isn’t going to kill 22 million people any time soon, they be indirectly responsible for the deaths of a few dozen, maybe a few hundred, which is far too many.

Crazy? Bear with me. Along with the IAF, ISO rushed the latest quality standards ISO 9001 (and, by influence, AS9100 as well) into press and then placed arbitrary implementation deadlines of 3 years (for ISO 9001) and 2 years (for AS9100). By pushing this agenda, it all but ensures companies will implement poor quality systems because of a need to meet an arbitrary deadline, and later achieve certification by their IAF partners, no matter how bad the products or services are. If a few of those companies kill a few people due to faulty products, ISO should be called to task for putting the sale of their standards above the good of humanity. And IAF should be hauled off the Hague. (Someone’s going to the Hague, ok?)

Which would all be theoretical if ISO wasn’t literally marketing itself as now being able to save the lives of 2.2 million people a year just for republishing an old BSI standard. They can’t take credit for saving lives if they refuse to take credit for costing them.

Words matter, and ISO should be held accountable for this stuff. But, alas, ISO answers to no one.


About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.