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History of ISRS

ISRS and the International Loss Control Institute

Frank E. Bird Jr (1921 - 2007) was a safety management pioneer and the founder the International Loss Control Institute (ILCI) based in Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. Frank continues to be an inspiration to safety professionals around the world. We encourage you to listen to this Frank Bird Podcast and to read this Tribute to Frank Bird.


Frank Bird and his colleagues Douglas Clark and George Germain were responsible for creating the first five editions of the International Safety Rating System (ISRS) based on original research into causation of accidents and safety best practice identified in leading companies.

ISRS First Edition © 1978
ISRS Second Edition © 1980
ISRS Third Edition © 1984
ISRS Fourth Edition © 1986
ISRS Fifth Edition © 1988

In 1991 Frank retired and sold the International Loss Control Institute and all its intellectual property including ISRS to DNV GL who would then carry on his work and reach a wider audience.


In 1991, the International Loss Control Institute became "DNV Atlanta" and Per Olaf Brett was appointed to manage the transition of ILCI into DNV GL. Over the next 10 years DNV GL worked to integrate the ISRS ideas and technology into the DNV GL organisation. The DNV GL management system service offering was broadened significantly creating a range of “IxRS” tools including the International Environmental Rating System, International Quality Rating System and International Marine Safety Rating System. Dozens of custom rating system assessment tools were also developed for particular clients. These activities were managed by a new Management System Services unit set up in the DNV GL Head Office in Oslo in Norway.

ISRS Sixth Edition

In 1994, the ISRS Sixth Edition was the developed. The project was led by Gordon Halsey who had been part of the original ILCI team and was still based in Atlanta. ISRS Sixth Edition updated the protocol and maintained the same 20 element format as was common with all the previous versions editions.

ISRS Seventh Edition

In 2004 DNV GL’s management system strategy was reviewed and it was decided to return to delivering services based around a significantly updated version of ISRS. An extensive listening to the customer process was undertaken involving more than 60 companies globally. This study identified that clients considered ISRS to be trusted, comprehensive and value adding. However, it was also found to be prescriptive, inflexible and becoming outdated. At this time the nuclear industry in the UK was a major user of ISRS and was keen to be involved in a joint industry project with DNV to create an updated version of ISRS that was fit for the future. Iain Light, the leader of DNV Consulting group, approved a significant level of match funding from DNV GL to initiate the project.

Chris Urwin led the development of the ISRS Seventh Edition project supported by his colleagues Geoff Farnell, Jon Jerre and an international team of client and DNV experts. The project lasted 1 year and resulted in a significantly updated version of ISRS. The principal changes between ISRS6 and ISRS7 were:

  • ISRS6 addressed occupational health and safety management only. ISRS7 was an integrated management system standard which encompassed occupational health, safety, security, environment, quality management and sustainability reporting. This reflected the realisation that clients had “one business and needed one management system” to run that business without duplications or conflicts.
  • ISRS6 was designed based on the loss control philosophy developed in the 1960s. ISRS7 kept loss control philosophy but added a modern risk management philosophy.
  • ISRS6 had 20 “elements”. ISRS7 was designed as 15 “processes”. The fewer number of processes was intended to simplify implementation. The reference to “processes” reflected the ISRS7 design principle “for the health of our business processes”. Each sub process in ISRS7 was designed as a standalone best practice business process.
  • ISRS7 was organised in a “continuous improvement” Plan-Do-Check-Act structure to ensure it aligned with the current management system certification standards.
  • All the topics in ISRS6 were included in ISRS7 but sometimes in a simplified and less prescriptive manner.
  • ISRS7 was the first version of ISRS to be written using a new database software called “ProtoGen”. Previous versions had been written as multiple word processor documents.
  • ISRS7 was made available in 10 languages using a new internet-based assessment software platform called “Summit” in whcih all assessment data was stored in a central database facilitating performance benchmarking.
  • ISRS7 was supported by a new online “ISRS Book of Knowledge” which have replaced the paper based Expanded Guidelines
  • ISRS7 created a new “Alpha to Omega” implementation approach to allow new users to start their ISRS journey with an “Alpha Assessment” – a simple perception-based assessment.
  • ISRS7 created a new level scoring system that allows organisations to select sub-processes rather than whole processes to increase scoping flexibility.

ISRS Seventh Edition was launched in 2004. On completion of the project and with the support from the DNV UK management team, Chris Urwin founded a new ISRS Product Centre to support, maintain and develop ISRS and its related training, assessment, consulting and software tools. The ISRS Product Centre was financed by a new ISRS license scheme introduced in 2005 - the original ISRS license scheme having been closed in 2000. 

ISRS Eighth Edition

Following the disaster at BP Texas City, there was a significant level of interest from clients in improving the management of major accident hazards or Process Safety Management. DNV GL decided to create the ISRS Eighth Edition focused on best practice in Process Safety Management. Mark Fisher was the Project Manager for this project supported by a UK based team of DNV GL experts. Chris Urwin was Project Responsible.

ISRS Eight Edition was launched in 2009. The protocol maintained the 15 process structure of ISRS7 but added 18 new sub processes to address Process Safety specific topics like Process Hazard Analysis and Asset Integrity Programme.

ISRS Ninth Edition

Back in 2004, the ISRS7 project team had included sustainability reporting in the ISRS protocol and it had been suggested then that ISRS could be rebranded the “International Sustainability Rating System”. At this time “sustainability” was a very new term and not well understood.  However, in 2007 DNV GL adopted the vision “Global Impact for a Safe and Sustainable future” and company projects began to explore how the company could advance its sustainability agenda. In 2012, Chris Urwin made a presentation at the ISRS Conference in Singapore stating that ISRS was on a journey moving from the “International Safety Rating System” towards the “International Sustainability Rating System”.

This announcement was the start of the ISRS9 development project led by Chris Urwin supported by an international team of DNV GL experts including Stuart Greenfield, Eric Roos, Jon Jerre, Michael Kelleher, Paul Noble and Selva Subramaniam. Between 2012 and 2018 research projects were undertaken in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership (CISL) to explore what best practice for sustainable operations was for site-based organisations. This research would help provide the definitions, philosophy and knowledge to support the inclusion of sustainability in the new ISRS protocol. A listening to the customer process was also conducted to identify what changes organisations would find of value.

In November 2018 the rebranded “International Sustainability Rating System” (ISRS9) protocol was completed and its external launch was announced in a blog post by Chris Urwin and Bjørn Haugland (DNV GL Chief Sustainability Officer) entitled “Sustainability: The Control of Loss to Our People, Planet and Profit”. This article described the “control of loss” and “target zero” philosophies that underpinned ISRS9.

The main differences between ISRS8 and ISRS9 are as follows:

  • The ISRS9 scope was expanded to address 10 loss categories: occupational health, occupational safety, process safety, security, environment, quality, energy, asset integrity, knowledge and social responsibility. Protocol designed for flexibility enabling organisations to select any combination of these loss categories as required.
  • An innovative new risk management philosophy was applied consistently to all 10 loss categories.
  • A new level scoring system utilising core questions rather than core sub-processes, to ensure all critical topics are addressed in all assessments. Core questions aligned with compliance with latest ISO management system certification standards.
  • A ground-breaking new content on social responsibility included to help organisations address the social sustainability issues, modelled on the award-winning practices of Badak LNG in Indonesia.