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The Difference Between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001

In March 2018, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) rolled out the new ISO 45001 standard. This standard replaces the old OHSAS 18001 standard laid out by the British Standards Institute. Organizations that use the OHSAS 18001 will need to migrate over to the new standard by March 2021.

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If your organization uses OHSAS 18001, you may be wondering what has changed and how the new ISO 45001 standard is different. While there are some similarities, there are also some significant differences you should be aware of.

Definition of OHSAS 18001 & ISO 45001

Before we get to the differences and how to comply with each standard, let’s define the two standards we’re talking about.

OHSAS 18001 was an international standard for occupational health and safety management. It established the minimum requirements for an occupational health and safety program.

ISO 45001, which replaces the old 18001 standard, is an international standard that specifies requirements for an occupational health & safety management system. It provides a framework for organizations to manage risks and opportunities to help prevent worker illnesses and injuries.

Key differences between OHSAS 18001 & ISO 45001

Both OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001 share a common goal: to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. The biggest difference between the two standards is how they approach that goal. Specifically, the new ISO 45001 standard emphasizes a more holistic approach to safety risk management — one that is integrated into an organization’s core business processes. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the key differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001.

1. Structure

One of the biggest differences you’ll notice between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001 is how the standard is structured. The structure of ISO 45001 is based on the Annex SL framework. You might already be familiar with the Annex SL format if your organization follows other ISO standards, like ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. Having a common structure makes implementing multiple standards within one organization easier.

2. Hazard identification

ISO 45001 also places a greater emphasis on risk management. Unlike OHSAS 18001, which only focused on controlling known hazards, ISO 45001 requires organizations to proactively identify sources or situations that have the potential to cause harm. It’s part of a bigger shift we’re seeing toward risk management being baked into a company’s operations at every level.

Risk assessments, audits, JSAs will be especially important under the new standard. Companies will need to consider and address risk and opportunities related to routine and non-routine situations, emergencies, changes to operations or processes, and even the management system itself.

3. Management commitment

Another change from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 is a greater emphasis on management commitment and involvement. Under ISO 45001, safety management is no longer just the safety manager’s job. The new standard calls for C-suite executives to take an active and visible role in the safety program.

Top-level managers will be expected to establish safety as an organizational priority and allocate resources for OH&S. They will need to ensure that safety policies and objectives are established. And they will need to regularly communicate with employees, safety managers, and other stakeholders to support safety initiatives.

Not only will senior leaders be responsible for promoting a culture of safety, they’ll also be expected to take personal responsibility for safety outcomes. By making safety and health part of an organization’s management system, ISO 45001 holds C-suite executives accountable for worker wellness.

4. Worker involvement

ISO 45001 also calls for consultation and participation of non-managerial workers. So what does that mean, exactly?

It means that workers are involved in establishing the safety program, evaluating its effectiveness, and identifying ways to improve it. Workers report injuries, close calls and near misses, and other health and safety concerns. They participate in inspections and incident investigations, and provide input on corrective actions. They also participate in identifying training needs and evaluating the effectiveness of training programs.

It also means that employers must provide workers with the time and resources to participate in the safety management system. Employers should give workers access to health and safety information, encourage them to report hazards and concerns, and show workers that their concerns are heard and addressed.

Your next steps

Companies that have successfully transitioned to the new standard treat it as an opportunity rather than an obligation. It’s a chance to improve their safety management system and develop a stronger workplace safety culture. That said, it does require a significant investment of time and effort. If you’re planning to migrate to the new standard, it’s important to secure buy-in from senior management and make sure you have the right tools to succeed.

Next, learn about the costs, benefits, and steps to ISO 45001 certification.

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