Photo: Nakilat 

Published: 4 Jun 2018

Shipping company Nakilat was certified to the new international standard for occupational health and safety management within two weeks of its launch. Here’s how they did it.

The year 2018 is a milestone for the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession. This year, the OHS management standard BS OHSAS 18001 was replaced by a new international standard, ISO 45001:2018.

While ISO 45001 draws heavily on OHSAS 18001 – which was first introduced in 1999 – it is its own distinct standard, with a new structure and new requirements. The changes mean more focus on the context in which the organisation operates, as well as the participation of leaders and workers, and risk-based thinking.

About 160,000 organisations across the world are believed to have implemented OHSAS 18001, and they have been given three years to migrate to the new standard. But for one Qatari marine company, all that was needed was two weeks.

Nakilat is the state of Qatar’s gas shipping company, distributing liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas extracted from Qatar’s North Field, which accounts for about 15% of world gas reserves. Set up in 2004, Nakilat operates 65 vessels with a combined capacity of 8.5 million cubic metres and a value of about £8bn.

The ISO 45001 standard was launched on 12 March 2018, and Nakilat was certified to the new standard on 25 March, less than two weeks later, making it the first company in Qatar to achieve certification.

Shipping huge quantities of gas is clearly a safety critical business, so it is vital for Nakilat to stay at the forefront of occupational health and safety best practice. The company had been preparing for the migration to ISO 45001 for some time before the new standard was published. It was already working on transitioning to ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015, the latest standards for quality and environmental management, which share a common structure with ISO 45001.

Certification to ISO 45001 was achieved after an intensive external audit and assessment, carried out by Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance, which began almost immediately after the new standard was published.

Nakilat said the rapid transition from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 is “a reflection of the company’s proactive approach for ensuring its health and safety system meets the latest industry leading standards”.

The changes associated with the migration to the new ISO standard affected almost every document maintained under Nakilat’s integrated management system, from its safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) manual to the procedures maintained at departmental levels. 

The company had been preparing for the migration to ISO 45001 for some time before the new standard was published.

Nakilat’s experience of achieving certification to ISO 45001 shows how important it is for the management of an organisation to be committed to the migration process. Careful planning must be carried out to ensure there are sufficient resources to execute the plan within the set timeframe.

Raising awareness among Nakilat’s employees was another important challenge. Before the new OHS system could be audited by the certifying body, Nakilat had to ensure its effectiveness through an internal audit, and address any issues.

Nakilat made sure all concerned departments in the organisation were involved from the very beginning, to ensure they understood the aim of the process, and their role in supporting it. An internal safety programme called ‘Incident and Injury Free’ was introduced, with full commitment from management, employees and stakeholders.

For Nakilat, there are many benefits to being certified to ISO 45001:2018. Firstly, it makes sure occupational health and safety is firmly at the heart of the organisation’s mission. It also allows for more robust OHS processes and controls, and helps drive development of systematic processes that consider the broader context, taking into account risks, opportunities, legal requirements and more.

In addition, the new structure and terminology (known as Annex SL) shared by the new ISO standards, including ISO 45001, 9001 and 14001, makes it far simpler for these systems to be integrated into a single business management system, minimising duplication of work.

The introduction of ISO 45001 also presents an opportunity for Nakilat’s workers to get more closely involved and engaged with health and safety at work.

Nakilat is now working on developing e-learning modules on a variety of topics related to SHEQ, which will soon be rolled out across the company, to raise awareness among employees on all the three standards to which Nakilat is certified. The company also plans to roll out a second phase of its ‘Incident and Injury Free’ programme, to embed the learnings deeper in the organisation.

Recently, Nakilat underwent the British Safety Council’s Five Star Occupational Health & Safety Audit, successfully obtaining the highest rating of five stars on the first attempt.

Its success in migrating so quickly to the new standard shows what can be achieved by organisations that are committed to putting occupational health and safety at the heart of what they do.