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OHSAS 18001 standard, a path to ensure safety of organisations

The safety and health of employees are important as it motivates them to stay on with the organisation without leaving room for high employee turnover. This important need was identified and many countries started to develop country specific occupational health and safety standards taking into consideration national guidelines.

However, the uses of such standards were limited to those countries and many countries considered having an internationally recognised standard on occupational health and safety.

Moreover, there are ILO guidelines but these cannot be used for certification purposes.

However, the International Organisation For Standardisation has not yet considered developing an ISO standard for occupational health and safety.

British Standards Institution


Dr Lalith Senaweera

In the early 1990s the British Standards Institution with the concerted effort of several national standard bureaus, certification bodies and specialist consultancies introduced the Management System standard - OHSAS 18001.

This Management System standard has been recognised as an emerging international occupational health and safety management system specification developed to help organisations control health and safety risks and improve performance.

The OHSAS 18001 Specification was updated in 2007 for better alignment and compatibility with the ISO 14001 (Environmental) and ISO 9000 (Quality) standards.

After the introduction of OHSAS 18001 standard, many countries adopted OHSAS 18001 as their national standard and the Sri Lanka Standards Institution too has adopted this standard as a national standard - SLS OHSAS 18001.

Certification

Many organisations are adopting these standards due to its benefits. The OHSAS 18001 series comprises of two parts, OHSAS 18001:2007 - Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems - Requirements and OHSAS 18002: 2008 - Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems - Guidelines for the implementation of OHSAS 18001.

Of the two standards, OHSAS 18001:2007 can be used for certification purposes. The OHSAS 18002 can be used to interpret the requirements, in case of doubt. The standard has been developed in line with the world famous Deming cycle of plan-do-check-act and that means the standard can be easily integrated with the other Management Systems such as ISO 9001 Quality Management System, ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems and ISO 22000 Food Safety Management System standards.

Structure

* Plan the setting up of your organisation's Occupational Health and Safety Management System. * Implement the developed Occupational Health and Safety Management System in your workplace. * Ensure the proper functioning of the system by monitoring, measuring, evaluating and reporting the performance of your organisation's occupational, health and safety management system. * Continually update and improve your organisation's occupational health and safety management system.

The requirements of the standards:

Under the OHSAS 18001 specification, it is the responsibility of the organisation to develop a management system covering occupational health and safety policy, show its commitment to the prevention of injury and ill health, identify health and safety laws and regulations applicable to its operations, conduct hazard identification and risk assessments, implement preventative measures to eliminate or manage the existing health and safety risks and set goals and targets for future improvement.

The important thing in this process is hazard identification and risk assessment and implementing preventative measures. The OHSAS 18001standard indicates that organisation must communicate its occupational health and safety policy to its workers and ensure that they are aware of the importance of occupational health and safety policy to ensure their commitment to it.

Moreover, maintaining records and documentation of affected workers and providing training and internal audits of its management system for continual improvement are also major requirements of the OHSAS 18001 Standard.

Benefits

The Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), has certified over 15 organisations with the OHSAS 18001 standard and promoted this concept among industrialists to identify the risks within the organisation and overcome such issues.

Some of the benefits of OHSAS 18001 certification include: Improvement in worker safety consciousness, motivation and acceptance; Risks to workers are controlled and managed; Reduction of accidents, claims and lost time injuries; Increase in international acceptance and credibility; Demonstration of legal and regulatory compliance and due diligence; and improved overall performance.

Sri Lankan organisations should adopt the principles of OHSAS 18001 Standard to minimise issues pertaining to occupational health and safety within the organisations.

The writer is the Director General of the Sri Lanka Standards Institution.

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