OHSAS 18001:1999 vs. OHSAS 18001:2007 Detailed comparison

About OHSAS 18001

Many organizations are implementing an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) as part of their risk management strategy to address changing legislation and protect their workforce.

An OHSMS promotes a safe and healthy working environment by providing a framework that allows organizations to consistently identify and control its health and safety risks, reduce the potential for accidents, aid legislative compliance and improve overall performance.

OHSAS 18001 is the internationally recognized assessment specification for occupational health and safety management systems. It was developed by a selection of leading trade bodies, international standards and certification bodies to address a gap where no third-party certifiable international standard exists.

The following key areas are addressed by OHSAS 18001:

  • Hazard identification, risk assessment and determining controls
  • Legal and other requirements
  • Objectives and OHS program(s)
  • Resources, roles, responsibility, accountability and authority
  • Competence, training and awareness
  • Communication, participation and consultation
  • Operational control
  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Performance measuring, monitoring and improvement

In 2005, the OHSAS Working Group started the process for revising OHSAS 18001:1999, Occupational health and safety management systems – specification.  OHSAS 18001 is a specification document developed in 1999 by an independent group of national standards organizations and certification bodies.

An initial working draft of the revised OHSAS 18001 standards was circulated in January 2006 for public comment.  Following a review of the 500 comments received on Working Draft 1 at a meeting of the OHSAS Working Group in Madrid, Spain in October of 2006, a second draft was circulated for comment in November of 2006.

The OHSAS Working Group met again in Shanghai, China in March of 2007.  The 500+ comments on Working Draft 2 were reviewed and consensus was reached on the language of the revised standard.

Work on the companion document, OHSAS 18002, Occupational health and safety management systems – Guidelines for the implementation of OHSAS 18001 is scheduled to begin in July of 2007.

The recent meeting of the OHSAS Project Group in Shanghai was very successful, and led to an agreed text to take forward for publication. It was made during the meeting limited, but critical changes to the text when compared to WD2 of OHSAS 18001 (e.g. to clarify the issues around the "place of work", "consultation" etc.).

The draft still needs to go through re-formatting, final editing and typesetting before it is ready for publication.

It is expected that the OHSAS 18001:2007 to be published on 1 July 2007.  This new version is better aligned with ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001:2004, keeping the same clauses order and most of the changes of ISO 14001:2004. This will encourage Management Systems integration and possibly increase the interest in OHSAS. OHSAS 18001:2007 is also more results oriented.

What will change?

The 2007 version of the OHSAS standard will differ from its processor as follows:

The importance of "health" has now been given greater emphasis balanced with "safety".

Focus on occupational safety, not getting distracted with assets, security, etc.

The term “incident” is now being used as a reference instead of the term “accident”

The inclusion of behavior, capabilities and other human factors as elements to be considered in the identification of hazards, risk assessment and determination of controls and finally in competence, training and awareness

A new requirement has been introduced for the delegation of control as part of OHS planning

Change Management is now more explicitly addressed

A new clause on the "Evaluation of compliance" has been introduced, aligned with ISO 14001

New requirements have been introduced for participation and consultation

New requirements have been introduced for the investigation of incidents

OHSAS 18001 now refers to itself as a standard, not a specification, or document, as in its earlier edition. This reflects the increasing adoption of OHSAS 18001 as the basis for national standards on occupational health and safety management systems.

New definitions have been added, including major ones like "incidents", "risk", "risk assessment", and existing definitions revised

The term "tolerable risk" has been replaced by the term "acceptable risk”

The definition of the term "hazard" no longer refers to "damage to property or damage to the workplace environment". It is now considered that such "damage" is not directly related to occupational health and safety management, which is the purpose of this OHSAS Standard, and that it is included in the field of asset management. Instead, the risk of such "damage" having an effect on occupational health and safety should be identified through the organization's risk assessment process, and be controlled through the application of appropriate risk controls.

In summary, OHSAS 18001:2007 is more compatible with ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 9001:2000, embraces modern and proven concepts of occupational health and safety management and has had its elements and definitions better refined. Please see the detailed changes in the Table 1.

Two-year transition period

Organizations already certified to OHSAS 18001 will have a two-year transition period, to end on 1 July 2009. Organizations should start implementing the improvements and alignments soon in order to benefit from the new changes.

To conclude OHSAS 18001:2007 is not the medicine to cure all occupational health and safety problems in an organization, but it is probably unique in its global acceptance and practical way of delivering a better work environment and continued improvement through a complete management system.

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.

How to get started?

To get started with the transfer to OHSAS 18001:2007 or to become OHSAS certified, please contact your local SGS representative or your international sales contact at SGS. As the world’s leading certification body in various management systems standards audits and certification, including Integrated Management Systems, SGS with its local expertise and international network has unique capabilities in auditing and certifying your H&S management systems against OHSAS 18001:2007. SGS has been recently accredited to perform OHSAS audits by UKAS (UK), CNCA (China) and also holds the JAS-ANZ accreditation (Australia).
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