OHSAS 18001 – Background, Summary of Provisions and Recent Updates

  • By: Staff Editor
  • Date: August 08, 2010
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OHSAS 18001 is an Occupation Health and Safety Assessment Series standard for health and safety management systems. It is intended to help organizations control and minimize occupational health and safety risks. The standard was created with the help of a number of the world’s leading standards and certifications bodies as well as specialist consultancies who wanted to create a clear occupational and health safety standard against which organizations can be certified and assessed.

The standard was developed to be compatible with the ISO 9001 (Quality) and ISO 14001 (Environmental) management systems standards, in order to facilitate the integration of quality, environmental and occupational health and safety management systems by organizations, should they wish to do so.

OHSAS 18001 was first issued in 1999, reviewed in 2006 and then issued as a revised standard in 2007.

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The standard has three objectives:

  • Minimize risk to employees and others
  • Improve business performance
  • Assist organizations in establishing a responsible image within the marketplace

OHSAS 18001 can be adopted by any organization wishing to implement a formal procedure to reduce the risks associated with health and safety in the working environment for employees, customers and the general public.

An organization that adopts OHSAS 18001 has to:

  • Detail an Occupational Health & Safety Policy applicable to its operations
  • Identify the OHS hazards and risks which the organization needs to manage
  • Identify the legal and other requirements applicable to the organization
  • Define and implement the means of managing these issues and requirements
  • Implement a means of effecting continuous improvement in the organization’s occupational health & safety performance
  • Check and review the continuing effectiveness, suitability and adequacy of the OHS management system

Key Provisions


Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Policy
  • An organization has to develop an occupational health and safety policy which has to be approved by management before implementation.
  • The policy should also detail the scope of the Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) within the organization.
  • The policy should address the following health and safety issues:
    • Prevention of injury
    • Prevention of ill health
    • Reduction of hazards and
    • Continual improvement of processes
Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Determining Controls Implement procedures to:
  • Identify workplace hazards,
  • Assess the risks associated with them and
  • Determine the controls that the company can implement to mitigate the effects of the identified significant risks.
Legal and Other Requirements Implement procedure to explain how the company obtains information regarding its legal and other requirements, and makes that information known to relevant functions within the company.
Managing OH&S Issues and Requirements
  • Top management has to be accountable and take the ultimate responsibility for OH&S and the OHSMS.
  • Top management should demonstrate its commitment by ensuring that resources are available so that the OHSMS can be implemented, maintained, and improved.
Monitoring Performance Management
  • The OHSMS must be monitored and measurements taken to determine how the system is performing.
  • Data generated from this activity should be analyzed and strategies for improvement formulated.
  • Equipment and measuring devices related to health and safety measurements must be calibrated according to procedures, and records maintained.


Recent  Updates

OHSAS 18001 was issued as a revised standard on 1 July 2007. OHSAS 18001:2007 included the following key changes:

  • OHSAS now refers to itself as a “Standard”. Previously OHSAS 18001 was referred to as a Specification. Although it is now referred to as a Standard, it is not an international standard
  • Significant improvement in alignment with ISO 14001:2004
  • The importance of “health” has now been given greater emphasis
  • New definitions have been added, and existing definitions revised
  • The term “tolerable risk” has been replaced by the term “acceptable risk”
  • The term “accident” is now included in the term “incident”
  • The definition of the term “hazard” no longer refers to “damage to property or damage to the workplace environment”
  • The scope of the standard now specifically excludes health & safety areas such as property damage and environmental impacts
  • A new requirement has been introduced for the consideration of the hierarchy of controls as part of OH&S planning
  • The management of change is now more explicitly addressed
  • Sub-clauses 4.3.3 Objectives and 4.3.4 Management programs have been merged
  • A new clause “Evaluation of compliance” has been introduced
  • New requirements have been introduced for the investigation of incidents

Additional Resources

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