This blog makes the not unreasonable assumption that those certified to OHSAS 18001 are aware that the British Standard is living on borrowed time…

Implemented in 1999, 18001 has been adopted by tens of thousands of businesses worldwide, and currently remains the flag-bearer for health and safety management systems.

The landscape, however, shifted in March 2018 with the introduction of ISO 45001, which will result in 18001 being withdrawn in a little over 14 months’ time.

That date carries significant commercial, economic and reputational implications for businesses not currently putting the three-year migration period to 45001 to good effect. And it also means that those entities considering a formal Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OHSMS) should only be casting admiring glances in the direction of 45001.

Migration, on paper, should be the easier process. You already have a robust system in place, it has been suitably planned, resourced, managed, monitored, reviewed and (hopefully) improved upon. And you have the badge of honour from a third party to confirm it.

As always, speed of migration will depend on the commitment, nature and scope of your organisation, but the principle for adoption remains the same:

‘To reduce unacceptable risk and ensure safety and well-being of everyone involved in, or affected by, an organisation’s activities’

The absolute first step in the process, however, has to be to purchase a copy of the new standard and read it carefully. There are differences in 45001, in terms of requirements, changes in emphasis, plus terminology and definitions used, all of which must be digested and understood.

Thereafter, the tried and tested ‘Gap Analysis’ will be used to evaluate your existing management systems against requirements of ISO 45001.

In terms of Clause 4 (Context of the organisation) you will be required to demonstrate that you have determined the relevant needs and expectations of workers and other interested parties.

Clause 5 (Leadership and worker participation) will require top management to evidence how they ensure and promote continual improvement.

Clause 6 (Planning) has a requirement for documented information to confirm that an organisation has taken into account legal requirements and other requirements (eg contractual conditions, employment agreements).

Clauses 7 (Support), 8 (Operation), 9 (Performance evaluation) and 10 (Improvement) will place similar demands on your OHSMS, and you must have capacity to evidence your compliance.

Evidence, however. does not always mean ‘documented information’.

Mandatory documentation is required by the standard (more on that at a later date), but evidence can often be supplied by way of observation, worker awareness, worker competence, interview.

Sub clause 7.5 (Documented information) of the standard states the following:

The extent of documented information for an OHSMS can differ from one organisation to another due to:

– The size of organisation and its type of activities, processes, products and services;

– The need to demonstrate fulfillment of legal requirements and other requirements;

– The complexity of processes and their interactions;

– The competence of workers.

ISO 45001 was developed by experts drawn from 70 countries, with significant input from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). The general thinking behind it, in relation to its predecessor, is as follows:

  1. It is a more pro-active standard (focus is more on prevention);

  2. It places more emphasis on top management (in terms of accountability);

  3. Employer engagement is a greater priority;

  4. It aligns far closer, by virtue of Annex SL, to other standards (9001 – Quality, 14001 – Environmental, 27001 – Information Security), meaning adoption of other management systems is a less onerous, and costly, task.

ISO 45001 tells you ‘what’ needs to be done, what is doesn’t say is ‘how’ it should be done. That has to be left to the organisation.

It can look a daunting document, but in my humble opinion it is one of the user-friendly standards and the puzzle quickly fits together with exposure to its nuances.

So, the clock may be ticking on 18001, but time (just) is a resource that remains in adequate supply. Procrastination, however, is not an option for those seeking migration.

I am an accredited Implementer in 45001 and a Lead Implementer in 27001. I am also a Lead Auditor in 27001, 45001 and 14001. If I can be of any assistance, my contact details are available on these pages.