OHSAS 18001: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS)

OHSAS 18001: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS)

OHSAS 18001 is an internationally applied British Standard for occupational health and safety management systems (OHSMS). This standard establishes requirements for an organization to control its work-related health and safety hazards and improve their performance by planning, documenting, and implementing a verifiable method for reducing and eliminating hazards in the workplace.

This standard was created in 1999 in response to customer demand for an OHSMS standard against which to evaluate and certify their management systems. A number of the world’s leading national standards bodies, certification bodies, and specialist consultancies worked together in developing the OHSAS 18000 series. This series consists of OHSAS 18001 and OHSAS 18002; the latter provides guidance for establishing, implementing or improving a management system based on OHSAS 18001 and demonstrating successful implementation of OHSAS 18001.

Organizations worldwide recognize the need to control and improve health and safety performance, and they’re doing so by adopting a systematic approach to their OHSMS rather than having a reactive health and safety culture. OHSAS 18001 provides organizations with the elements of an effective OHSMS, one that enables them to minimize risk to employees and others, improve business performance (by reducing the direct and indirect costs associated with accidents and work-related illnesses), establish a responsible image within their marketplace or industry sector, comply with applicable legislation, and ensure an impartial, credible assessment of the OHSMS.

This standard is voluntary and any organization, regardless of the size or nature of the business, can choose to adopt OHSAS 18001 as a framework for their OHSMS. This standard can be implemented by high risk or low risk businesses in the private or public sector.

OHSAS 18001 is a generic standard; an organization has the freedom and flexibility to define its boundaries. However, the level of detail and complexity of an OHSMS, the extent of documentation, and the resources devoted to it depend on the size of the organization and the nature of their activities. As mentioned, the standard highlights what an organization needs to do to meet its own occupational health and safety goals. Each organization is responsible for setting their targets and performance measures. This standard provides knowledge, tools, and techniques that serve to meet objectives and goals as well as the subsequent monitoring and measurement of those goals.

OHSAS 18001 was not created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) but it was designed to be compatible with ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (Environmental) management systems standards. If an organization decides to implement this system, it can do so as a stand-alone specification or it can integrate it with their quality and environmental management systems. Either approach shows that an organization is committed to keeping their employees and everyone associated with their activities safe.