Martin Cottam provides some pointers for organisations that need to migrate from BS OHSAS 18001 to the new ISO 45001 standard.

ISO 45001, the global standard for health and safety, was published on 12 March 2018 and replaces BS OHSAS 18001 (Occupational health and safety management systems). Organisations that are certified to OHSAS 18001 have a three-year window to migrate their occupational health and safety (OHS) management system to meet the new requirements.

Throughout the standard’s nearly five-year development, the CQI has worked with various stakeholders, such as NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Safety) and the BSI (British Standards Institution).

Martin Cottam of Lloyd’s Register is Chair of BSI Committee HS/1 – Occupational Health and Safety Management, and offers some advice for organisations. One key aspect to consider is tapping into the available talent.

“I would recommend organisations migrating from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 to take full advantage of the knowledge and understanding those responsible for their quality and environmental management will have of the ‘Annex SL’ common framework and high-level language of ISO management system standards,” he said, adding this will help in the interpretation and application of the requirements in Clause 4 on Context of the Organisation.

Another aspect to consider are the details defined within the new requirements. He encourages users of ISO 45001 to “review the definitions section of the standard – a section readers are sometimes tempted to ignore. The definition of ‘worker’ is a good example of the importance of definitions. In common usage in the UK, the term is often seen as distinct from ‘management’, whereas in ISO 45001 the definition makes the term all-embracing, extending to include the owner of a small business, the executive board of a larger company, and unpaid volunteers and interns.”

The definition of ‘worker’ is a good example of the importance of definitions.

Cottam points out that those familiar with OHSAS 18001 will notice a difference with the way ISO 45001 addresses “risk and opportunities”.

“I’d make two points here. Firstly, the standard isn’t expecting organisations to treat risks and opportunities and apply exactly the same processes to each – opportunities are typically less frequent occurrences in the life of the organisation. For example, the consolidation of work from a number of sites onto one, at which moment there may be a change to take a step [such as] in the way the new workplace is designed and laid out. This will have a positive OHS impact. The challenge is to make sure that OHS is included in the planning of the change, so that this opportunity not missed. 

“Secondly, in talking about ‘OHS risks and other risks’, ISO 45001 is reminding us that the risks we need to address in managing OHS performance include, but extend beyond, the risks associated with the OHS hazards in the workplace. So we need also to be thinking about broader risks to OHS performance – for example, how changing literacy skills within the markets from which we hire may require adjustments to the ways we train our workers to achieve the required level of OHS competence for their roles.”

Cottam highlights that ISO 45001 has more specific requirements than OHSAS 18001 when it comes to consultation and participation of workers. “It emphasises that OHS performance is best achieved via the collaborative effort of workers across and at all levels within the organisation,” he said. 

Martin Cottam of Lloyd’s Register, Chair of BSI Committee HS/1 – Occupational Health and Safety Management