OHSAS 18001 Health & Safety Management System

What is OHSAS 18001?

In recent years, OHSAS 18001 has become the most internationally recognised standard for health and safety management systems. It demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to controlling its health and safety risks and eliminating work-related accidents.

The standard provides a systematic approach to managing your health and safety risks and ensuring you remain legally compliant.

OHSAS 18001 contains a framework for improving any organisation’s health and safety performance by adopting sound risk management principles including:

  1. Maintaining commitment from senior management and buy-in from employees
  2. Systematically identifying hazards, assessing risks and applying appropriate control measures
  3. Maintaining safe systems of work to manage high risk activities and responding effectively to emergency situations
  4. Monitoring developments in health and safety legislation and checking compliance
  5. Thoroughly investigating the root causes of accidents and near misses. Continually looking for opportunities to eliminate hazards at source and better manage risks.

Who can benefit from OHSAS 18001?

OHSAS 18001 can help any size or type of organisation that wants a simple and clear system for protecting the health and safety of its employees. It will enhance your reputation as a responsible employer and demonstrate compliance with health and safety legislation.

The more significant the hazards present in the environment that you operate in, the more that you will benefit from OHSAS 18001. Suppliers to high-risk sectors will often find themselves needing to demonstrate their compliance with a wide range of policies and procedures. Having OHSAS 18001 allows you to leapfrog many complex questions on contracts and tenders.

How can OHSAS 18001 help you grow your business?

There are four key ways that OHSAS 18001 can help:

OHSAS 18001 enables you to increase your sales by expanding your customer base by meeting the requirements of certain customers
Large organisations cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to health and safety. To help manage their risk these organisations are increasingly likely to insist that their suppliers are OHSAS 18001 certified or similar. Often, suppliers are expected to have OHSAS as a prerequisite to winning contracts and tenders. If you undertake any work on behalf of a customer on one of their sites, you will significantly help them by having safe systems of work that are legally compliant. Equas clients have won significant new business that they would not have otherwise acquired without OHSAS 18001.

Reduce accidents and reduce cost
OHSAS 18001 can enable you to reduce your risk of accidents and in turn reduce business disruption and employee absence. Providing a safe working environment where everyone feels secure and confident in carrying out their duties, has a positive effect on productivity and morale.

If your company is certified to OHSAS 18001 by a SSIP approved UKAS-accredited certification body, it will automatically satisfy the requirements of all other SSIP schemes. This means that if you pay the registration fee to join any one of the schemes you will not need to undergo and initial assessment audit or any annual surveillance audits.

Reduce your operating risk
The Health and Safety Executive are becoming less tolerant of organisations that breach Health and Safety law. Furthermore, employees are ever more likely to seek compensation for accidents at work. Having a robust health and safety system certified to OHSAS 18001 will reduce the likelihood of prosecutions and insurance claims. This will in turn lead to lower insurance premiums and reduce the likely frequency of visits by the Health and Safety Executive.

Improve the strength of your brand
In a competitive environment, organisations can differentiate themselves through demonstrating that they operate responsibly and professionally. Being certified to OHSAS 18001 increases the likelihood that customers and other third parties will have a positive image of your organisation and your brand.

What is the process for achieving OHSAS 18001 certification?

  1. First, you need to make a decision on whether use a UKAS accredited or non-UKAS accredited certification body. You need to ensure you are satisfying your current and potential customers’ requirements for UKAS certification. (Click here for more information about UKAS)
  2. Decide which of your products, services and locations you want to include in the scope of the certification.
  3. Decide when you want to achieve certification by and plan to maintain the momentum of the project. This will depend on the complexity of your business activities, the current nature of your health and safety risks and the number of sites included within the scope.
  4. Identify and allocate the resources required to complete the project by your target certification date. Where necessary, engage the support of an external consultancy firm.
  5. Decide how you will operate and maintain your management system documents and records e.g. pc, local server or specialist environmental management system software (click here for more information about our Activ Online Management System).
  6. Commence the Project
    • Ensure you have buy-in from key colleagues
    • Carry out a Gap Analysis of your current system against the certification requirements
    • Plan the project including resources and timescales
    • Appoint a Certification Body
  7. Project Implementation
    • Project Manage to ensure key milestones and deadlines are met
    • Complete risk assessments covering all the activities covered by your system scope
    • Complete a legal compliance assessment
    • Create appropriate documents to control your significant health and safety risks (e.g. permits to work, operating procedures, safe working instructions)
    • Train your employees in the policies, procedures, risk assessments and control measures that are relevant to them
    • Carry out an Internal Audit and close out any significant actions identified
    • Complete your first Management Review meeting
  8. Undergo a certification audit by a UKAS-accredited certification body. This audit will be split into two visits. The first visit will review your system documentation (referred to as a Stage 1 audit). The second visit will audit your records, interview employees and assess whether you have effectively implemented your system (referred to as a Stage 2 audit).

What factors will affect your return on investment?

There is a strong link between having a robust health and safety management system and superior long-term business performance. The return you make on your investment in implementing and maintaining an OHSAS 18001 certified Health and Safety Management System depends on a number of factors:

  • How ambitious your Health and Safety Policy and the Health and Safety Objectives you set are.
  • How much work you have previously undertaken to manage your occupational health and safety risks.
  • How effective your current Health Safety Management System is.
  • The significance of the health and safety risks that are present in the work you undertake.
  • The extent of the legislation that applies to your business and the health and safety requirements of your customers. If this is large, then implementing OHSAS 18001 will significantly improve the control you have in these areas and the potential reductions you can achieve in insurance costs and permit charges.
  • How well you exploit your OHSAS 18001 certification in your marketing and PR materials.
  • The time taken to achieve certification. The longer it takes you to achieve certification the longer it will be before you realise any benefits. It is often the case that organisations that take a long time to achieve certification have to undertake a certain amount of rework during the project.
  • How well you maintain your Health and Safety Management System after you’ve achieved certification.

What are the implications of the transition from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001?

OHSAS 18001 is scheduled to become a full ISO standard (ISO 45001) in October 2016. The new standard will be aligned with the new ISO 9001:2015 (Quality Management) and ISO 14001:2015 (Environmental Management) standards.

If you are certified to OHSAS 18001 before the new standard is issued, you will be able to transfer to ISO 45001 provided you make some limited changes to your existing system. You will have to transition to the new standard by late 2019.


A draft version of ISO 45001 has been published and based on the draft we expect the following key changes from the current version:

  • An increased requirement to demonstrate continual improvement in your health and safety performance.
  • A need to identify external/internal issues, relevant parties and requirements and assess the risk these pose to your health and safety management system achieving its objectives.
  • Requirement to conduct a high level risk assessment to identify areas where you can improve.
  • The need for scopes to be more detailed and explicitly stated.
  • Increased focus on the hands-on involvement of the senior management – expect auditors to conduct more extensive interviews with CEOs and other Board members.

How can ISO in a Box™ help you?

Equas supports organisations in implementing an OHSAS 18001 compliant system. Done in the right way, it avoids complexity and focuses on implementing and maintaining simple and effective measures rather than creating reams of paperwork.

Contact us now to find out more about how OHSAS 18001 can provide you with a more comprehensive and easier-to-maintain health and safety management system, discuss your requirements, or obtain a fixed-price quotation with guaranteed certification.