The publication of ISO45001:2018 is planned to replace OHSAS18001:2007 as the internationally recognised occupational health and safety management system standard for certification. There will be a 3 year transition period for those organisations wishing to migrate from the old standard.

So the question then is; will migration from OHSAS18001 to ISO45001 achieve improved organisational Health & Safety Performance through greater worker participation?

The evolvement of the standard was in the backdrop of an estimated 2.34 million deaths in 2013 as a result of work activities, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), with the greatest majority (2 million), associated with health issues, as opposed to injuries, and the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) estimating that there are 660 000 deaths a year as a result of cancers arising from work activities.

According to the Health & Safety Executive in Great Britain, a total of 137 workers were killed at work in 2016/17, which is a reduction of 10 fatalities from 2015/16, and is the second lowest year on record after 2013/14. However, these statistics exclude deaths from occupational diseases, which typically occur many years after first exposure to the causative agent. The asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma is one of the few examples where deaths due to an occupational disease can be counted directly. There were 2,542 such deaths in GB in 2015, but other occupational deaths usually have to be estimated rather than counted. Each year in GB around 13,000 deaths from occupational lung disease and cancer are estimated to have been caused by past exposure, primarily to chemicals and dust, at work.


It is clear that an organisation’s activities can and do pose a risk to the safety and health of its workforce and those affected by its activities, and the adoption of a systematic approach to the application of preventative measures through the implementation of an OH&S management system can demonstrate effective processes for the elimination or minimisation of associated OH&S risks, and promote a Climate conducive to learning and continual improvement of OH&S performance.

As with the previous standard, ISO45001 is not prescriptive about the format or design of an organisation’s OH&S management system, but implies that, as a tool for improving overall Health & Safety performance, the management system adopted should be commensurate to the risk prevalent within the organisation’s purpose and activities. The new ISO standard has utilised the generic Annex SL format, as would be known to organisations familiar with the new versions of ISO9001, ISO14001 or ISO27001 etc., to re-align some existing clauses, as well as introducing other new requirements.


In the development of its OH&S Management System, it is now an essential element to consider the internal and external ‘actors’ and ‘factors’ ie. Its Context, which influence (positively or negatively) OH&S Performance. The needs and expectations of Workers and Interested Parties must also be determined to ensure the relevant risks and opportunities are considered. It is expected that systematic evaluation or worker’s needs etc will lead to enhanced OH&S controls relevant to the risks encountered.

Top Management is now responsible and accountable for the provision of a safe and healthy workplace and the prevention of ill-health and injury, positively influencing the need to engage with the workforce and ensure effective communication and their participation in relevant OH&S activities. It may be suggested that Clause of OHSAS18001 ‘Participation & Consultation’ already clearly required worker’s involvement in risk assessments, incident investigation, policy & objective development and representation etc on OH&S Matters, but along with Policy commitments, Top Management must now apply the hierarchy of controls to OH&S Risks.

A key planning mechanism in any OH&S system, hazard identification and risk assessment has been ‘widened’ slightly to include ‘other risks and opportunities’ to the OH&S management system, which now includes ‘processes’ and by inference may enhance planning by considering the interfaces between and within processes. There is also enhanced reference to social and human factors in relation to hazard identification.

As with other standards based on Annex SL, Documented Information largely replaces the need for documented procedures and promotes the process approach, including evidence to support their implementation as planned. ISO45001 now mandates that organisations must operate a process for the elimination of hazards and reduce risk by following the stipulated Hierarchy of Controls, where previously OHSAS18001 stated that organisations had to consider the hierarchy. This is a subtle change of text with potentially significant positive impact on OH&S Performance as organisations may need to demonstrate to auditors justification for controls applied.

Requirements in relation to the control of outsourcing, procurement and contractors have been further detailed and strengthened, to express process controls to address potential risks arising from the organisational relationships established.


In addition to the new format and additional requirements, there have been additional implications for Certification Bodies in planning to audit against the new OH&S Management System standard, including Mandatory requirements for Migration and for Risk categorisation and subsequent audit durations etc. The requirements for the Competency of OH&S Auditors and certification personnel is also currently under development and the requisite Technical Committee expects publication along with ISO45001 in March. Details of relevant documents can be found at the end of this article.

The uniformity of application of risk categorisation and subsequent Audit Duration should enhance the robustness and effectiveness of the audit process, which along with the addition to the ISO17021 family of standards, will ensure an improvement to the standards of OH&S knowledge and ability of auditors deployed in the Certification sector, all contributing toward improved OH&S performance on a global scale.


Worker Participation is the ‘Golden Thread’ in this new standard and through the active role of workers in OH&S matters, regulatory compliance, employee wellbeing and worker competence will improve, whilst incident occurrence and associated costs, downtime, insurance premiums, absenteeism and employee turnover rates will reduce. It is predicted that ‘leading indicators’ will go up whilst ‘lagging indicators’ will go down, hence improved OH&S performance.


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IAF MD 21:2018 Requirements for the Migration to ISO 45001:2018 from OHSAS 18001:2007

(Issue 1, issued on 18 January 2018; application from March 2018) This document provides requirements for the migration from OHSAS 18001:2007 to ISO 45001:2018.

IAF MD 22:2018 Application of ISO/IEC 17021-1 for the Certification of Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OH&SMS) (Issue 1, issued on 25 January 2018; application from 25 January 2018) This document is mandatory for the consistent application of ISO/IEC 17021-1:2015 for the accreditation of Certification Bodies providing certification of Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OH&SMS).

ISO/IEC DTS 17021-10 Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems – Part 10: Competence requirements for auditing and certification of occupational health and safety management systems.