What is high-level structure in ISO standards?

Understanding the High-Level Structure (HLS) in ISO standards is crucial for ensuring quality and consistency across your operations, as it harmonises various management system standards for seamless integration. This article breaks down the ten core HLS clauses and explains how Citation Certification can help you implement these standards to elevate your business.  
What is high-level structure in ISO standards?

In the ISO standards context, High-Level Structure (HLS) refers to a standardised framework for developing future ISO management system standards to ensure they support each other. This initiative includes common terms, core text, basic definitions, and management system standards requirements. This standardisation enhances compatibility among various management system standards, facilitating their integration with certified bodies and ensuring quality and consistency in producing ISO standards. The HLS comprises the following ten core clauses:



Defines the setting of the ISO standard. For example, in terms of quality, the focus is on the customer, while Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) focuses on workers. The management system requirements are generic and applicable to most organisations, regardless of size, type, and product provided.


Normative references

Intended to keep numbering aligned and indispensable with other ISO standards. Currently, there are no normative references for the upcoming updates of ISO 14001, ISO 9001, and ISO 45001.


Terms and definitions

Each ISO standard will feature general management system terms and definitions as well as those specific to the discipline. Some standards like ISO 14001 and AS/NZS 4801 have already incorporated specific terms and definitions.


Context of the organisation

Outlines the internal and external issues that influence organisations. Internal issues include factors like company culture, values, and knowledge. External issues include cultural, economic, technological, and legal factors, which can be local, national, or international.



Defines the role of top management. Management needs to implement policies ensuring that responsibilities and authorities are clearly defined. They also have a general responsibility for facilitating discipline within the organisation.



Requires implementing a risk-based approach to manage risks and opportunities. It ensures that the integrated management system functions correctly to prevent undesired effects and facilitate improvement.



Outlines the resources needed to support the current management system. These resources include a competent workforce, measuring equipment, infrastructure, and a conducive environment.



These are processes for operations, acceptance indicators, and contingency policies for conformance. They replace operational control, hazard identification, product realisation, control of risks, and risk assessment in ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.


Performance evaluation

Includes evaluation, data analysis, measurement, monitoring, internal audit, and management review. For instance, ISO 9001 requires monitoring customer satisfaction, while ISO 45001 and ISO 14001 require evaluation for compliance.



Companies must respond diligently to non-conformities, address incidents, take preventive action, and control consequences. They are also expected to continually improve their management system’s suitability, effectiveness, and adequacy.

Certification made simple

Although future management system standards will share common characteristics, organisations must develop systems that meet their specific business needs, people, and interested parties. At Citation Certification, we can help you implement the best ISO certification to meet your company’s unique needs. Contact us today to get started.

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