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A new standard for occupational health and safety

Since 2007, British Standard BS OHSAS 18001 has provided the basis for certification of internationally recognized occupational health and safety management systems. But soon it will no longer apply: on 12 March 2018, the new standard ISO 45001, developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), took its place. This standard is also intended to ensure continual improvement of international occupational health and safety management.

New structure and different focus

The essential aim – to optimize processes for companies in all industries so as to protect the life and health of employees as much as possible – will also apply with the new standard. Just like BS OHSAS 18001, it will be based on the “Plan – Do – Check – Act” model. The most important new aspect is the introduction of a so-called High Level Structure with the objective of applying a harmonised structure to all management system standards. There are also some changes of emphasis and a number of amendments to content, including greater focus on the environment of the organization. One aspect here is that working conditions should in future be considered along the entire supply chain in addition to those of the organization’s own employees. This means that third party employees who are working within the area of responsibility of the organization also have to receive instruction on relevant health and safety measures. It is also expected that organizations should identify opportunities for improvement of occupational safety within a dedicated process. In addition, important functions and requirements within the framework of health and safety management are extended and transferred to the uppermost management levels. This means that there is a greater focus on the role of top management.

How to benefit from the changeover

Now that ISO 45001 is published, companies with an occupational health and safety management system certified according to BS OHSAS 18001 will be obliged to change to the new standard. There will be a transitional period of three years, which will allow enough time to implement the changed requirements successfully by 11 March 2021. This will require a certain effort, but the certified companies will clearly benefit from the forward- looking orientation of the new standard – through further optimised processes in occupational health and safety, fewer disruptions of operational procedures, lower accident and illness rates, improved safety awareness and long-term competitive advantages.

Benefits at a glance

Certification according to DIN EN ISO 45001 offers you the following benefits:

  • System-based approach to occupational health and safety
  • Continual improvement
  • Identification of potential risks and hazards and their elimination
  • Greater employee awareness regarding safety aspects
  • Increased motivation and qualification for employees

How long is the transition period?

The rules for transition from BS OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 were laid down for all certification bodies by the IAF (International Accreditation Forum) on a global and binding basis. Following their expiry on 11. March 2021, all certificates based on OHSAS BS 18001:2007 will become invalid. Up to the expiry deadline, organizations can move to the new standard within the framework of a recertification or surveillance audit or possibly a special audit.

What must be considered in connection with risks and opportunities in the context of ISO 45001?

ISO 45001 follows the approach of risk-based thinking. This means that organizations have to consider their risks and opportunities more carefully than before and identify them accordingly. Instead of reacting to consequences that have already occurred, organizations have to make specific plans beforehand as to how potential effects are to be handled. Assessment of risks and opportunities can relate, for example, to investments (new machinery), in-house infrastructure, innovations or suppliers.

What must be taken into account in relation to the certificates within the framework of recertification or surveillance?

When the certification process is complete, you will receive certificates according to ISO 45001:2018, which are valid for three years. The period of validity follows on directly from the previous certificate. That means that the expiry date of the new certificates corresponds to the normal three-year period (expiry date of the old certificate plus three years), if the process is carried out to time … in other words, the audit and the NC management are completed on schedule. If the transition is made during a surveillance audit, the new ISO 45001 certificate takes on the period of validity of the existing certificate.

Can initial certification to ISO 45001:2018 cost less than transition from BS OHSAS 18001:2007 to ISO 45001:2018?

For organizations of a certain size, the additional time and cost for a certification audit may be less than for a recertification audit or surveillance audit.

What is the procedure for transfer from another certification company?

First the transfer audit is carried out and a certificate according to BS OHSAS 18001:2007 is issued. Soon after issue of this certificate, it is possible to transfer to 45001:2018 based on another audit. The same rules apply to the additional cost and time as for transition during a recertification, surveillance or special audit. Organizations can also carry out the transfer with BS OHSAS 18001:2007 and then implement the change to ISO 45001 in the following surveillance audit.

What is the structure of the new standard?

The new ISO 45001 follows the so-called “High Level Structure” (HLS). This standardised structure ensures simple integration of the new ISO 45001 management system into existing ISO-9001- or ISO-14001 systems. This leads to two significant benefits: on the one hand definitions and structures can be used in a harmonised way, and on the other the standards become easier to understand and synergies are possible through combining different standards and certifications. This saves time and money when introducing ISO 45001 into the organization.

If recertification is not to take place in a recertification or surveillance audit, what are the possibilities?

There is the possibility to change over to ISO 45001 in a special audit. This consists of an additional audit scheduled between the regular audits. The additional cost is higher than in a surveillance or recertification audit. This results from the additional time needed for preparation and follow-up work and for taking any changes since the previous audit into account. In addition, there are travel costs. If you are not sure what changes you need to make in order to transition to the new standard, we are also happy to offer you a “gap audit” or preliminary audit. The gap audit can be attached to the next surveillance or recertification audit. Just send us a short message if you need further information or an offer.

In the case of initial certifications, is it advisable only to consider the new standard?

If the organization is beginning with implementation of an occupational health and safety management system, it makes sense to consider the new standard ISO 45001:2018 from the start. If certification is urgently needed in the short term and the management system has already been installed in accordance with BS OHSAS 18001, it can be preferable to obtain certification based on BS OHSAS 18001:2007 and then perform the upgrade in the remaining transitional period.

How is the audit itself different?

Within the audit process it is important to ensure that the participants named in the standard and the accreditation rules are well considered. In ISO 45001, the participants are now more clearly defined with regard to their roles: 

  • the management, with legal responsibility for health and safety at work, 
  • the management along with permanent and temporary employees, 
  • employee representatives with responsibility for health and safety at work, 
  • the personnel responsible for monitoring the health of the employees … for example company doctors and nurses.

In the audit, the management and employees of contractors should be interviewed at the site of the audited organization if possible.

 

 

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