The benefits of OHSAS 18001 certification
OHSAS 18001 is a framework for an Occupational Health & Safety Management System that provides the means of managing the various H&S risks posed to its employees and third parties by virtue of its operations.
The Standard requires its users to have systems in place so as to ensure risks can be identified and relevant preventive or mitigating actions implemented. The Standard also mandates that systems are in place for ensuring that relevant legislation is identified and that compliance is maintained.
Many businesses or organisations that pursue OHSAS 18001 certification will often already have H&S systems in place, frequently managed by a H&S advisor or internal expert, but OHSAS 18001 ensures that the system used is based on best practice utilising a consistent approach to health & safety.
Preparing for OHSAS 18001 Certification
The Standard requires its users to implement a consistent systems based approach to the management of OH&S risks in the workplace. Typically this will involve carrying out risk assessments and then documenting how each risks is managed or mitigated, often through the use of procedures or method statements.
As with other Standards management are expected to set some improvement objectives where achievable, or targets so that the organisation is able to measure any improvements it might make.
OHSAS 18001 requires its adherents to identify and comply with all relevant H&S legislation, and again in many high risk organisations it is likely that the H&S advisor or expert will already be doing this, so it is really down to documenting how the system works.
The Standard also requires the organisation to plan for any potential accidents or near misses, and again ensure that the responses to these are consistent and documented.
The detail regarding H&S risk management will often be documented within a H&S Policy Manual or similarly named document, but with OHSAS 18001 a fairly high level description of the organisation and its systems will, as with other standards, be contained within a Systems Manual. OHSAS 18001 is very often integrated with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
The OSAS 18001 Assessment
Once the new EMS is implemented and a round of internal audits and management reviews has been conducted an application for assessment can be made with an appropriate Certification Body who should ideally be UKAS accredited. Very often OHSAS 18001 is achieved in conjunction with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 so ideally a combined assessment should be requested as this will be more cost effective than separate assessments for each standard and in any event the documented systems would ideally also be integrated via the Systems Manual which we will produce.
The assessment is again carried out across two stages with Stage 1 intended to ensure that all of the required systems and processes are in place, as well as involving a physical walk-around the site by the Assessor. Stage 2 would normally follow after about four weeks and involves the more in-depth auditing of the management system against the standard as well as checking that relevant legislation is being adhered to.
All being well the assessor will there and then "recommend" the organisation for certification (registration) and the certificate will normally arrive shortly thereafter.
Maintaining OHSAS 18001
As with ISO 9001 and 14001 the Assessor will return to carry out surveillance visits (audits) at last once per year, and will expect to see evidence of regular auditing and reviews, and continuing improvements being made to the systems as well as ensuring that any defined H&S performance targets are being met.