OHSAS 18001 for small business

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OHSAS 18001 is the Occupational Health and Safety Management Standard. It was published in 2007 and is the de facto OHS standard in use worldwide, although other organizations have similar standards. Some folks question whether OHSAS 18001 for small business is needed or not…

How could OHSAS 18001 for small business work?

Health and Safety management takes worker safety into account when designing processes and products. There are levels to work protection, and they are a ranked order – in other words, you should always strive to do the first; when not able to do so, then do the second; etc.

These are:

  • elimination
  • substitution
  • engineering controls
  • signage and other administrative controls
  • Personal Protective equipment (PPE)

This means that an organization does not follow health and safety best practice simply because their workers wear safety shoes and safety glasses. Best practice is reserved for those organizations that show that they have first tried to eliminate the risk, then make a substitution, etc.

Here’s an example that a small business may face: they are working to protect their workers from a hazardous chemical.

They check and cannot eliminate the chemical, as it is used to clean parts.

They try several alternatives, or substitutes, but the parts do not come clean with no residue with these alternatives.

They then look at the process, and see if engineering can come up with a solution.

Here they hit “pay dirt” – engineering figures out that they can develop a tool to clean the parts without human intervention, so they have significantly reduced the potential exposure to the employee.

Now, the only time that the signage is needed is when the chemical is being handled (received, transferred into / out of the tool, and disposed of), rather than every time a part is processed.

So, signage and PPE is still needed to protect the workers, but the exposure is very limited.

By using the hierarchy of controls, small businesses can protect their workforce from workplace hazards, ensure their safety, and still produce a high quality product at a competitive price.