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OHSAS 18001

The Benefits of a Formal Health and Safety Management System

Occupational Health & Safety is a subject that must be addressed by all organizations large and small. The organization’s management system should identify all legislative requirements, identify the hazards and control the risks of the organization.

Progressive businesses will aim to go beyond compulsory measures and promote continuous improvement on health and safety matters.

Managing the health and safety of an organization can be approached using a structured management system and it can be integrated into current systems, to reduce the burden of bureaucracy.

A formal H&S management system will provide the following benefits:

  • A system for continually identifying legal and other requirements
  • A clear management structure delegating authority and responsibility
  • A clear set of objectives for improvement, with measurable results
  • A structured approach to risk assessment within the organization
  • A planned and documented approach to health and safety
  • The monitoring of health and safety management issues, auditing of performance and review of policies and objectives.

Time spent on improving an organization's health and safety could provide a financial return in terms of:

  • Reduced accidents and occupational ill health
  • Reduced stress and greater productivity
  • An improvement in underwriting risk
  • A reduction in the likelihood of paying regulatory compliance fees.

The Origins of OHSAS 18001

For many years, there has been demand for a certification scheme for occupational health and safety, which intensified with the publication of BS 8800 in 1996. However, while BS 8800 offers guidance on implementing an occupational health & safety management system, it is not and never was intended for certification purposes. The pressure was, therefore, for a certification scheme that could offer independent verification that an organization has taken all reasonable measures to minimize risks and prevent accidents.

The situation prompted many certification bodies to develop their own specifications based on BS 8800. The inevitable irregularities between the specifications made this an undesirable way forward. In response, a committee was formed in November 1998 chaired by the British Standards Institution, and consisted of the major certification bodies and other national standard organizations known to be active in health and safety, with the goal of creating a single specification. This resulted in the occupational health and safety assessment series OHSAS 18001, which unified the existing schemes. Guidance to this specification can be found in OHSAS 18002.