OHSAS 18001 is the British standard for occupational health and safety management in organisations.
It’s a fairly recent creation, with a short history. However, it has quickly been adopted at national and international levels, and been put to the test long enough to have warranted a significant revision.
The certification applies to the Occupational Health and Safety Systems (OHSM) industry. Prior to 1999, there had been a glut of different schemes and standards available – which made it extremely difficult for businesses within the industry to make informed choices about which system to adopt.
OHSAS 18001 was originally developed as a result of a consensus between various consultancies and international certifying bodies. Health and safety had been a concern in the workplace for several decades, and many countries and industries had developed their own particular regulations. However, there was a clear need for a standard that could be systematically implemented in an organisation and assessed against.
For this reason, several bodies convened to form the OHSAS Project Group, in order to put something together that would act as one single and widely accepted standard. Their intention was to distill the core principles of health and safety that were important in human organisations, and codify them in a general document.
In 1999, the first incarnation of OHSAS 18001 was produced, alongside its peer document, OHSAS 18002. OHSAS 18001 specified requirements for health and safety management systems, whereas 18002 laid out procedures for implementation.
OHSAS 18001 was updated in 2007, in order to integrate well with other management systems standards commonly implemented in organisations – ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. The principal amendments were quite minor. Some of the key changes listed are detailed below:
- Health’ is now given greater focus within the standard
- Rather than being referred to as a ‘specification,’ ISO 18001 is now known as a standard
- The terms ‘incident’ and ‘accident’ are now interchangeable and not separate in meaning
- The methodology for investigating incidents has been altered
The changes to the standard are more numerous and wide-ranging than those listed above, so your business would need to refer to the updated legislation for more information.
The update also made room for increased emphasis on the ‘health’ component of health and safety. Various other modifications were made to make the standard easier to implement – terms were clarified, definitions added and sections were rewritten for clarity.
After the update, the British Standards Institution adopted OHSAS 18001 as British Standard. Although it is still not used by the International Organisation for Standardisation, it’s recognised worldwide as the premier standard for health and safety management systems, and is used by more than 50,000 businesses worldwide.