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What is Annex SL?

How did Annex SL come about?

Adopted formally in 2011 by the ISO, Annex SL started out as Guide 83 – a recognition from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) that there needed to be a more unified approach to the structure of Management System Standards.

What is Annex SL?

Annex SL is the high-level structure for modern ISO Standards. Through this new structure, the ISO wanted to ensure consistency and compatibility between the different Management System Standards. In turn, the structure allows for a more straightforward implementation when integrating multiple Standards and makes it easier for businesses and their staff to follow.

The Annex SL structure consists of 10 clauses under which all content in a Management System Standard must be categorised:

  • Clause 1 – Scope This defines the intended outcomes of the Management System
  • Clause 2 - Normative references References any Standards or publications that are relevant
  • Clause 3 - Terms and definitions Definitions of the common terms used throughout the Standard are defined here
  • Clause 4 - Context of the organisation This defines the areas that the Management System will cover
  • Clause 5 – Leadership This area stresses the importance of the involvement of the leadership team within the operation of the Management System
  • Clause 6 – Planning How the Management System will achieve its objectives and how the business will deal with risk
  • Clause 7 – Support How the operation of the Management System will be supported to run efficiently
  • Clause 8 – Operation Details on the day-to-day processes and operations in your business, including how you will track the performance of these areas
  • Clause 9 - Performance evaluation Analysing and monitoring how well your business is operating against the requirements of your Management System
  • Clause 10 – Improvement Using the results of your performance evaluation to improve your business and its processes

Where possible these clauses have identical core text, no matter which Standard they are applied to, and share common terms and core definitions. It is necessary in some cases for the definitions to be reworded, but through Annex SL this is kept to a minimum due to the careful wording and planning behind the structure. This means that, for the most part, basic arrangements for the operation of a Management System, regardless of discipline, are standardised.

Another benefit is that discipline-centric details are usually contained under the one clause (Clause 8 - Operation). It may be necessary in some cases for other areas to contain these details. A great example of this is the environmental risk register for ISO 14001 which is under Clause 6 - Planning.

Which ISO Standards use Annex SL?

Most Management System Standards that have been released or updated since 2011 are using Annex SL as the basis for their structure.

The more familiar ISO Standards such as ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 45001:2018 are all using Annex SL.

You can view a full list of the Standards using Annex SL on Wikipedia.

Michelle Janion

Michelle-Louise Janion

Marketing Executive

Michelle has worked for QMS since 2017, producing engaging content around ISO Standards and other compliance related topics.
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