Organisations Switch-Off to Delayed ISO 45001 in favour OHSAS 18001

The long awaited International standard for Occupational Health and Safety ISO 45001, which was expected to be published in 2016, is now looking unlikely before December 2017, which is switching organisations off the ISO standard, in favour of the established British OHSAS 18001.

ISO 45001 Development

The ISO committee responsible for developing ISO 45001 includes representative from national standards bodies, as well as stakeholders such as International Labour Organization (ILO).

With each representing their own interests on the matter of Occupational Health & Safety, which varies greatly across the globe in terms of culture and legislation, it’s no wonder that consensus on the new standard has been elusive.

A large number of comments on the matter were received during the public consultation phase, which is being cited as one reason to move back the publication date, firstly to June 2017 but now according to ISO’s web page for the standard, even further to December 2017.

Health & Safety Standard Vacuum

With such uncertainty surrounding the ISO 45001 standard, there is now a vacuum of over a year where organisations will need to decide on an effective framework to meet Health & Safety obligations.

Many have been waiting for the new standard, which would be based on the Annex SL framework – the same high-level structure used in the recent revisions of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 (and ISO 27001ISO 22301 before that).

Implement OHSAS 18001

With all that in mind, organisations may now start projects to implement the existing British Standard OHSAS 18001, which continues to be well recognised & respected internationally.

The OHSAS 18001 standard still provides a good basis for occupational health & safety management, and should be considered the minimum requirements for organisations to implement.

Additional Worker Involvement, Stress Management and Wellbeing activity can also be applied to the OHSAS 18001 framework, which was last updated in 2008.

OHSAS 18001 Update?
While some are questioning if ISO 45001 will be realised at all, with so much invested in the international standard it would seem likely that a compromise can be reached.

However, if that compromise falls below the minimum expected by countries with strong health & safety laws, there may still be a case to retain the OHSAS 18001 standard too.

ISO 45001 was not an update to OHSAS 18001, but rather a completely new standard that:

“will take into account other International Standards in this area such as OHSAS 18001, the International Labour Organization’s ILO-OSH Guidelines, various national standards and the ILO’s international labour standards and conventions.”

Therefore, the OHSAS 18001 committee is still operating and could decide to draft an update to the British standard which is now 8 years old.

What Next?

If you are looking for a recognised Occupational health & Safety Management system, which can be externally audited by a Certification Body, we recommend progressing with OHSAS 18001.

There is likely to be a transition process between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001 when it is finally published, but in the meantime you can protect your people with an established management system.



Robert Clements
Robert Clements
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