Health and safety management systems are changing

31 October 2014

Are you prepared?

OK , they’re not changing until 2016, but now is the time to start thinking about the transition if you work for an organisation that’s currently certified to OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Management System.

The new Standard ISO 45001 is due to be launched as an international standard in 2016, but the discussions from Project Committee ISO PC 283 have already started, and the Committee draft is already available.

The Draft International Standard (DIS) is expected in Q2 of 2015, with the full standard launched in Q4 of 2016. Organisations with OHSAS 18001 will then have 2-3 years transition period to meet the new requirements of the Standard.

So what are the likely new requirements?

The key changes to the standard are likely to follow the key changes to other standards recently being updated like ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 for quality and environment respectively.

ISO 45001 will follow the new ‘High Level Structure’ Annex SL, which aims to align standards more closely, allowing easier integration of standards at an organisation level. This will mean the structure of the standard will be:

  1. Scope
  2. Normative references
  3. Terms and definitions
  4. Context of the organisation
  5. Leadership
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance evaluation
  10. Improvement

There will be a need for more involvement and engagement from senior management in embedding the requirements of the Standard into strategic plans for the organisation. This is introduced in section 5 of the standard, which is a new section, and requires a change from organisations which delegate responsibility for health and safety and the running of the management system solely to the health and safety manager. The health and safety management system will now have to form part of the organisation’s overall management approach.

The context of the organisation’s activities will also need to be focussed on, requiring an organisation to look beyond its immediate health and safety issues and take into account what the wider society expects of it. This means looking at internal and external factors affecting the organisation. It also means taking account of the needs and expectations (including requirements) of interested parties, both internal and external. This may include, for example, employees, contractors visitors and regulators.

There will be a greater emphasis on risk management, and implementing the hierarchy of control. This is already part of OHSAS 18001, but the new standard will likely make this more explicit. As the management system will now become a tool to manage and control risk, there is likely to be no need for a separate clause for preventive action as there is currently in OHSAS 18001.

There are likely to be some changes to definitions in the new Standard, as in the 21st Century documents and records are becoming slightly outdated terms when trying to describe the data acquired from mobile phones, tablets and PDA’s. There may also be a move from the term hazard identification which is more suited to manufacturing activities, to business risk control, allowing organisations to look at the wider context of their activities especially if these are outsourced.

What can I do now?

Whilst the launch of the standard is still  a couple of years away, it is advisable to talk to your current certification assessors about the changes, and also making senior management aware of the increased obligations placed on them, both from an involvement perspective and the integration of the standard into the strategic  plan for the business. It may also be advisable to start looking at a transition plan.

What if we are currently in the process of implementing OHSAS18001?

With the timescales involved, if you’ve started the process of implementing OHSAS 18001, then continue to do so. You can gain certification against the standard until 2016, and still have 2 -3 years to make adjustments to ISO 45001.


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