Since its first publication in 1999, OHSAS 18001 has been a recognized occupational health and safety management system (OH & SMS) standard against which management systems can be assessed and certified. Today, 16 years later, a new ISO standard is being developed to replace OHSAS 18001; this standard is ISO 45001.

ISO 45001 is an OH & SMS standard that is being produced by an ISO Project Committee and it is scheduled to be published by the end of 2016. The Committee Draft Standard (CD) of ISO 45001 is already available and since its publication, a number of differences are evident between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001. Some of the main differences between the two standards are explored below.

The first difference concerns its structure. ISO 45001 is based on the ISO Guide 83 (“Annex SL”) which defines a common high level structure, text and common terms and definitions for the next generation of management systems (e.g. ISO 9001, ISO 14001, etc.). This structure aims to facilitate the implementation process and the integration of several management systems in a harmonized, structured and efficient manner. Such structure is as follow:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative References
  3. Terms and Definitions
  4. Context of the Organization
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance Evaluation
  10. Improvement

In the new standard there is a stronger focus on the “organization’s context”. With ISO 45001, organizations will have to look beyond their own health and safety issues and consider what the society expects from them, in regard with health and safety issues.

Some organizations that use OHSAS 18001 delegate health and safety responsibilities to a safety manager, rather than integrating the system into the organization’s operations. ISO 45001 requires the incorporation of health and safety aspects in the overall management system of the organization, thus driving top management to have a stronger leadership role with respect to the OH&S management system.

ISO 45001 focuses on identifying and controlling risks rather than hazards, as it is required in OHSAS 18001.

ISO 45001 requires organizations to take into account how suppliers and contractors are managing their risks.

In ISO 45001 some fundamental concepts are changed, like risk, worker and workplace. There are also new definitions of terms such as: monitoring, measurement, effectiveness, OH&S performance and process.

The terms “document” and “record” have both been replaced with the term “documented information” in ISO 45001. The standard also states that documented information must be maintained to the extent necessary to have confidence that the processes have been carried out as planned.

In spite of these changes, 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.

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