Moving from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001: old wine in new bottles?

After years of service the British Standard for occupational health and safety management systems, OHSAS 18001, has been transformed to fit into the ISO ‘HLS family’ (High Level Structure). This paves the road for combining management Health and Safety topics with care for the environment, quality and energy. In this article an impression of practical challenges that the conversion entails, based on a project at Philips in Drachten.

New management approach

Although the subject – safety and health at work (OS&H) – has not changed, a new management approach has been chosen in which leadership, context analysis, consultation and participation will play a prominent role. These topics will also be discussed during auditing.

From OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 - audit requirements, part of GAP analysis form

Transforming to the new standard begins with a gap analysis. Based on the standard text, this is a simple but time-consuming exercise. It’s more difficult to catch the spirit of the new standard in the analysis. The new standard is creating a deeper impact compared to the old standard. Besides the management of factors that influence the OSH theme, also the factors that influence the functioning of the system itself must be managed. E.g. in the event of changes in the organization, the functioning of the system itself must also be considered and if necessary action must be taken. Particularly in the planning part, consideration must be given to the dynamic aspects of the management system itself.

Manage processes demonstrably

In addition, the opportunities also must be considered. So not only the control or reduction of risks, but also the search, recognition and exploitation of opportunities. We have to get rid of the idea that compliance is the ultimate goal and that there is still a world of opportunities beyond compliance to improve H&S at work. We will have to get used to it: compliance is the basis, beyond are the challenges.

From OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 - Process support with swimlane diagramsA number of processes that were mentioned earlier must now be managed demonstrably. I will highlight one. The process obligation Management of Changes (MoC) is an extension to two standard elements that were scattered in Chapter 4 in OHSAS 18001. Now it is a full paragraph with process description. It is clear that some work still needs to be done here. In some areas, management is arranged and demonstrable, but in other area’s not. It does not mean that H&S aspects are not considered in the event of changes, but it is not demonstrable. And with that it falls outside the PDCA cycle. After all, if we cannot make the performance visible (measurable), it cannot be determined whether the goal (Management of Change) has been achieved. And management cannot intervene to improve.

Opportunities for improvement

When designing or adjusting processes, it is wise to include the standard element directly in the (internal) audit program. In this way, these elements can be implemented by the stakeholders and evidence for improvement is created. Even though the new element is not yet fully embedded, a start has already been made as evidence of continuous improvement.
So no, not old wine in new bottles, but an opportunity to look at ingrained methods, to look for opportunities for improvement and to manage a number of new aspects. In short: a fresh challenge for anyone who thinks to have his or her working conditions in order!