Many organizations have identified the benefits of a strong Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) system. Not only does it minimize or mitigate industrial accidents, but it also provides care for the workforce.

In the past, there was no ISO standard for OHS – the only available standard was the British Standard OHSMS 18001, which was released in 1999 and updated in 2007. This standard was based on various governmental standards worldwide and had become the de facto standard for OHS Management.

The ISO committee first started working on ISO 45001 in 2013 and created a committee that would be responsible for drafting the first pass and getting input. Through several drafts, the standard was revised to take stakeholder concerns into account, and the first version of the standard was published on March 12, 2018.

For organizations that were registered to BS OHSAS 18001, a transition table was published, outlining when the organization would need to convert their OHSAS standard to the ISO standard before the expiration of the OHSAS certificates. Certification Bodies (CBs) have been issuing OHSAS certificates during the transition period, but no matter when the OHSAS registration audit was held, the certificates have an expiration date no later than March 12, 2021.

If you have an OHSAS 18001 Management System in place, you should be scheduling your transition audit to the new ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety System soon. The OHSAS registrations expire no later than March 2021, which means that your Certification Body (CB) will need time to process the transition paperwork. Most CBs have dates of 3rd quarter 2020 at the latest which means that you’ll need to update your OHS System to meet all ISO 45001 requirements in the first half of 2020.

While the transition isn’t difficult, it does require some work to ensure your system is ready.

OHSAS 18001 is based solely on the P-D-C-A (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle. When transitioning to ISO 45001, remember to consider the following:

  • Context of the organization – what are the internal and external issues that affect the Occupational Safety and Health Management System (OHSMS)? Have these issues been evaluated for risk, and have actions been taken as appropriate to minimize or mitigate these risks? Are all risks acceptable?
  • Workers and stakeholder / interested parties – you need to be able to demonstrate that workers concerns are solicited and addressed, as well as those of other interested parties (both internal, like unions, management, etc. as well as external parties including regulatory agencies, stakeholders, and others). How you do this is left up to you; however, it’s always a good thing to have documented evidence that employees were consulted; that they have a communication channel that they can access easily; and that other stakeholders and interested parties are considered when implementing your OHSMS.
  • Leadership has a great emphasis – no longer can this be delegated to the Safety Committee or other groups that have no authority to make the changes. While this will not impact many top managers, who are already involved in the company’s safety program and monitoring ways to improve it, it may require an additional engagement of the top management team to conform to the ISO requirements.
  • New terms need to be addressed, including risk-based thinking and opportunities, as well as risks. These terms are broad enough to require insertion in multiple clauses of the standard, either explicitly or by inference, and should be kept in mind throughout the implementation or transition process.
  • Communication paths are in place for both internal and external communications. This should be able to be readily demonstrated to an auditor as well as kept ‘fresh’ by the organization.
  • Operational control includes contractor control, procurement management, and management of change. Incorporating change within the organization, but ignoring your contractors, purchased materials and services, and potential changes to the organization would be detrimental to the overall OHSMS. These clauses now ensure that management is considering both current and future changes; that responsibility is not being shifted to contractors to avoid addressing issues, and that procurement is aware of how their purchasing decisions are impacting the OHSMS.

So, now should this transition be addressed?

  • Plan for additional time. The CBs will be scheduling additional time to implement the transition, so budget this into your plans.
  • Ensure that your legal and regulatory compliance has been reviewed, as this is sometimes more stringent than the OHSAS 18001 requirements.
  • Do a complete internal audit of all the requirements of the new standard. Don’t have that expertise yet? We can help.
  • Do a full Management Review of the new ISO 45001 requirements prior to the transition audit.
  • Ensure that your workforce, including contractors, is aware of the changes, and who they would contact if they had questions. Auditors will talk to workforce personnel as well as managers and OHS personnel, so ensure that everyone is aware of why you are implementing, how they can participate, and what the basic tenets of the MS are (policy, objectives/targets, etc.)

While the transition to ISO 45001 is not difficult, it will go much easier with some planning. Ensure that your training and awareness is in place; that you’ve had your internal audit and management review, and that you’ve budgeted for a longer audit.

Looking for help to convert your Occupational Health and Safety Management System to ISO 45001? Contact McDonald Consulting Group to help. We will help you evaluate your needs, and come up with the most cost-effective solution with easy implementation for your organization. McDonald Consulting Group offers both in-house classes (which may be customized) and public offerings.