ISO 18001 - Explained

13th October 2014 Keith Flight

What is it?

OHSAS 18001 is a standard for occupational health and safety management systems. It allows an organization to implement sound occupational health and safety practices. The standard is seen as the world’s most widely recognised health and safety management systems standard.

Who is it for?

You are obliged to have a written health and safety policy if you employ more than 5 people, but all businesses are obliged to manage health and safety.

We suggest that people who need a structured way of managing their legal obligations for health and safety management and want to ensure the wellbeing of their staff should implement the requirements of OHSAS 18001. However industries with a high health and safety risk such as manufacturing and construction would benefit greatly by becoming OHSAS 18001 certified..

What are the benefits?

An ‘occupational health and safety management system’ supports a safe and healthy working environment by equipping your organization with a framework to help you:

  • Consistently identify and control health and safety risks.
  • Reduce the potential for accidents and potential legal action.
  • Improve overall efficiency and reduce costs through improved staff wellbeing and reductions in absences from work related health issues.

Implementing an occupational health and safety management system and achieving certification has many benefits for your business. The most significant are:

  • Demonstration of legal and regulatory compliance.
  • Demonstration to stakeholders of your commitment to health and safety.
  • Better management of health and safety risks, now and in the future.
  • Potential reduced insurance costs.
  • Improved communications with staff.
  • Better staff involvement in health and safety management.

What do I need to do?

As with all standards, OHSAS 18001 requires you to formally document certain areas of your business, in this case relating to your occupational health and safety management and to keep evidence (records) that demonstrate you are operating according to the requirements of the standard.

The standard is based on the methodology known as Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) and can therefore be broken down into it’s four components. Plan: Establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with your organisation’s occupational health and safety policy.

  1. Get commitment and support from senior management.
  2. Compare existing health and safety management practices with OHSAS 18001 requirements.
  3. Get staff and supplier feedback on current health and safety management.
  4. Establish an implementation team to get the best results.
  5. Map out roles, responsibilities and timescales then share this information with all areas of the business using good internal communication.
  6. Adapt the requirements of the OHSAS 18001 standard to your business in order to write an occupational health and safety policy that meets the following requirements:
    • Authorised by the top management within the organisation.
    • Be appropriate to the organisation size and identified health and safety risks.
    • State health and safety objectives.
    • Commit to continual improvement.
    • Recognise the need to comply with legislation.
    • Be communicated to staff.
    • Be available to interested parties.
    • Be regularly reviewed.
  7. Establish the systems that enable the effective implementation of the occupational health and safety policy, including:
    • Communication.
    • Competence, training and awareness.
    • Identification of, and evaluation of compliance with, applicable legislation.
    • Incident investigation.
    • Emergency preparedness and response.
  8. Identify legal requirements using a formal method to identify all legal and other health and safety requirements that apply to your business.
  9. Set objectives for the reduction or elimination of health and safety risks and compliance with legal or other requirements within your organisation.


Implement the processes

  1. Implement one or more programmes consisting of projects and activities that aim to achieve the objectives of the OHSAS policy.
  2. Identify who is responsible for achieving the objectives that were set in the planning stage.
  3. Establish how they are to be achieved.
  4. Set a date when they are to be achieved by.
  5. Review the programme(s) at regular, planned intervals and modify if required to allow for changes in operation within the organisation.


Monitor and measure processes against occupational health and safety policy, objectives, targets, legal and other requirements, and report the results to ensure it continues to meet the requirements of your organisation.

  1. Ensure compliance with the OHSAS specification and the requirements of the company health and safety system by regularly monitoring and measuring the results.
  2. Keep records to demonstrate compliance and enable improvement of the system through analysis of the records.


Take actions to continually improve performance of the occupational health and safety management system.

  1. Conduct internal audit of processes.
  2. Analyze accident and incident records.
  3. Analyze nonconformance with the requirements.
  4. Analyze proactive actions taken to prevent incidents.
  5. Analyze progress against objectives.
  6. Get staff involved with improving the system through training and incentives.
  7. Share OHSAS 18001 knowledge and encourage staff to train as internal auditors.
  8. Regularly review your OHSAS 18001 system to make sure you are continually improving it.
  9. Implement the improvements to the occupational health and safety management system.

How do I get certified?

Once the health and safety management system is in place and has been in operation for long enough for evidence of its effectiveness to have accumulated, it is possible to submit the system for certification. This will involve engaging the services of a third party certification body.

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