More than two million people die every year from work-related risks, which include everything from workplace accidents, cancer, pollution, circulatory disorders, and natural hazards. Workplace safety standards can significantly reduce fatalities and injuries, but many businesses and organizations are hesitant to adopt them. They fear that stringent safety protocols will disrupt business, will cost them too much money, and will give competitors an advantage. This is particularly true for small and emerging businesses, which have a thin profit margin and cannot afford new costs. Occupation Health and Safety Management Systems—Requirements 18001 (OHSAS 18001) was created to encourage more countries and more employers to adopt lifesaving regulations. On the other hand, International Organization for Standardization Requirements 45001 (ISO 45001) will improve upon OHSAS 18001’s benefits.
ISO 45001 vs. OHSAS 18001: The Basics
OHSAS 18001 is an international protocol designed to promote health, safety, and standardization throughout the world. It was adopted in 1999 by the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series Project Group, an international collaborative group made up of occupational and medical authorities from all over the world. The protocol identifies global and regional workplace hazards, sets minimum requirements for practices to minimize these hazards, and helps employers to comply with these requirements. It seeks to promote consistent regulations all over the world so that no country or organization is at a disadvantage for being safe. Since its adoption, OHSAS 18001 has saved thousands of lives all over the world.
As beneficial as OHSAS 18001 has been, no protocol is perfect, and many experts have proposed updates to save more lives and better encourage compliance. These changes have been incorporated into the upcoming ISO 45001 protocol, and will take into account:
- The Full Effects– Aside from protecting their own employees, employers must also consider how their work endangers non-employees who live or work nearby.
- Unique Needs– OHSAS 18001 was prescriptive, listing general regulations for all organizations to follow. ISO 45001 seeks to take each organization’s specific needs into account to make compliance easier.
- Management Involvement– Whereas OHSAS 18001 allowed company managers to delegate safety concerns to lower officials, ISO 45001 will encourage them to incorporate safety regulations into the broader management system.
- Multiple Standards– Many organizations already follow earlier ISO protocols other than OHSAS 18001. ISO 45001 will combine all these standards, making compliance easier overall.
How will ISO 45001 affect my organization?
The protocol is designed to make it easier for your organization to identify comprehensively and respond to all health and safety hazards. Although no organization is required to adopt these guidelines, many managers find doing so lowers insurance premiums, reduces regulatory compliance issues, and makes for healthier, more productive, and more loyal employees. These benefits are more than worth the cost of compliance.
The first ISO 45001 draft was published back in July; to get a head start on ISO 45001 training, consider ordering a copy from the US Member Body. The final version will be published sometime in late 2016. For more information on complying with ISO 45001 and promoting workplace health and safety generally, consult:
- This ISO 45001 ppt summarizing some of the challenges of adopting the new protocols
- The ISO’s Briefing Notes, which explain the new regulations and their likely effects
- This interview with David Smith, who leads the committee that is developing the new standards
- OSHA’s publication on common workplace safety and health hazards
- A summary of previous ISO standards