26 Sep 2018Posted By: Mudit Handa

All you need to know about ISO High Level Structure

It is undeniable that for steady, progressive and sustainable business growth, one needs to conform to various global benchmarks of quality assurance. For this purpose, the organizations choose to conform to various ISO standards.


The primary rationale behind going through the ISO certification process is achieving the desired level of compliance to the international vanguards of quality management. However, sustainable business growth is a continual process, just as the constancy of the quality efficiency is affirmed throughout the entire business journey only if there consistency in adherence to the attained management system standards.


Among various aspects that ensure the continuous process of quality enhancement, one fundamental feature is of a high-level structure. This is an elementary aspect that is common to almost all types of ISO standards.


#1. What is a high-level structure?

The High-Level Structure or HLS is a formalized mechanism for drafting the prospective ISO management system standards. It has been discussed in detail in the Appendix SL of the ISO/IEC Directives.


#2. How does a high-level structure look like in ISO certification?

As per the ISO/IEC Directives, the ISO standards should be framed in a high-level structure that comprises of the following heads-

  1. Scope
  2. Normative reference
  3. Terms & definitions
  4. The context of the organisation
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

The basic attributes and the requirements that are specific to each management system standard are included in this structure in the form of sequential chapters.


#3. What is the objective of the HLS?

The central aim of following a High-Level Structure is ensuring uniformity in the quality management process.

The idea behind standardization as per HLS is to make sure that all the new standards adhere to and share a common consistent principle, i.e.

  • A regular general structure (i.e. index) with similar chapters, heading numbers, and articles or clauses, etc.
  • Introductory texts for all similar clauses
  • Similar references for similar requirements
  • Common terminology with all core definitions

#4. What is the significance of HLS in ISO?

The main purpose behind inculcating HLS in ISO certification is to ensure and promote compatibility among various ISO standards in order to enable their proper integration and easy implementation by the certified establishments.

#5. How does ISO implement HLS in development of various ISO standards?

From an internal point of view, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) seeks to ensure uniformity in devising of its own ISO standards. This can be understood through the following aspects that are evident in every management system standard-

  • Consistent texts that suit all types and sizes of organizations in all sectors of the economy and applicable in every work-culture.
  • A detailed framework that aims at conforming output of the ISO certification process that is usually very complex, and involves the intervention of various committees and parties.
  • Precision. No doubt, ISO would guarantees that management system standards are concise and not overly descriptive. And HLS ensure this with a uniform framework.


Considering all these core aspects, ISO has already implemented the High-Level Structure in many of the key ISO standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 and is still applying it to many other standards. Some recent instances are of ISO 45001:2018, ISO 50001:2018 and ISO 22000:2018.


If you seek any sort of help regarding the ISO certification, feel free to contact our business advisor at 8881-069-069.

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