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OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 – The Transition to the World’s First International Health and Safety Standard

Much has been said recently with many articles written regarding the world’s first Internationally recognised Health and Safety standard, the ISO 45001. I decided to write this brief article explaining the benefits of having the standard and what additional work may be needed for companies to achieve the standard if they are currently certified to OHSAS 18001.

In January 2018, ISO 45001 successfully passed the FDIS (Final Draft International Standard) ballot, meaning that the final standard will be published sometime in March 2018.

Since 1999, although a British Standard, the OSHAS 18001 has generally come closest to filling the role of providing the most internationally recognised health and safety management system standard.

For the unfamiliar with OHSAS 18001, the standard provides a framework that puts employees first and ensures best practices are being implemented, creating safer working environments for the workers and at the same time reducing risk and liability to the organization.

For those of us who have gone through the OHSAS 18001 certification, the transition to the ISO 45001 would be so much more straight forward as the majority of the management system components will remain the same. Organizations would not need to move to the new standard immediately either as a period of three years for the transition is likely to be given, after which the OHSAS 18001 will seize to exist.

If companies are already applying OHSAS 18001, they will recognize most of the requirements in ISO 45001. However, there are quite a few changes from OHSAS 18001 that organizations must prepare for in order to migrate and comply with ISO 45001. The new standard will include a number of new elements to complement the old standard, these are briefly discussed here:

  1. Further emphasis on the concept of Risk Management. companies are to determine, consider and, where necessary, take action to address any risks or opportunities that may impact the ability of the management system to deliver its intended results, including enhanced health and safety at the workplace.
  2. More involvement and engagement from senior management within the organization.
  3. Further considerations with regards to strategic considerations for health and safety within organization. It is likely that further evidence of management involvement in overall health and safety planning will be required.
  4. The use of health and safety key performance indicators (KPI’s) to give an overall guidance to health and safety performance within an organization
  5. Organizations to better demonstrate compliance to local, national and International health and safety regulations where applicable.
  6. Other aspects touched upon include additional requirements to the participation of workers in health and safety decisions, emphasis on communication within the organization as well procurement, contractor management and outsourced processes.

It is therefore important that organizations from now start making considerations for these changes by discussing the likely transition requirements with their senior management and setting up transition plans as well as resource allocations to support the change.

In a nutshell, The overall aim of ISO 45001 remains the same as OHSAS 18001, which is to reduce unacceptable risks and ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in an organization’s activities. In future articles I will touch on some of these changes with best practices and practical suggestions that can support companies transition to the new standard.

Until then we look forward to the official standard release in March 2018.


February 23, 2018

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