OHSAS 18001: Safety Management Systems Explained | EcoOnline US

OHSAS 18001: Safety Management Systems Explained

Written by Dan Ryder

Published August 15, 2023

For years, OHSAS 18001 was the gold standard for building a health and safety management system. But in 2021, ISO 45001 became the new standard. There were many reasons for this shift that we won’t dive into today, but what’s important to understand that if you want a certified safety management system for your organization, you need to comply with the new guidelines. 

If your organization didn’t migrate to ISO 45001 back in 2021, chances are you didn’t see the business case to do so. You probably built a great safety culture using OHSAS 18001 and your business’s bottom line may not be directly tied to being certified.

If this describes your situation, you’re far from alone. A lot of organizations are still weighing the pros and cons of OHSAS 18001 and wondering how it will impact their bottom line.

How long will it take to migrate? Will this cause a paperwork nightmare? How much will it cost us? Will we see a return on our investment?

What you need to know about ISO 45001 blog

The Business Case for Migrating from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001

First and foremost, being ISO 45001 certified allows you to bid on (and win) more high-worth projects, particularly international contracts. The prospect of attaining new contacts and new clients may have started your search into upgrading your health and safety standards. Although growing your business is always a strong reason for updating processes, it’s only one of the many benefits.  

By being ISO 45001 certified, you’re proving that your organization is committed to social sustainability, which can open the door to greater shareholder investment.

At the same time, it can also help you attract and retain top-level employees. A lot of workplaces say their employees' safety is their top priority, but being ISO 45001 certified proves it's your top priority.

Top talent will feel good about applying for roles in your organization because of your stellar safety reputation. And once hired, they will see alignment with your organizational values when their participation and feedback is encouraged. 

5 men wearing yellow construction hats high fiving

What's the Difference Between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001

Let's take a look at the two standards at a glance:

ISO 45001 OHSAS 18001
10 clauses 4 clauses
Focuses on both risks and opportunities Focuses on risks
A clause dedicated to high-level leadership No leadership responsibilities
Guidelines for contractors and outsourcing No guidelines for outside workers 


How Hard is it to Transition to ISO 45001?

If you’ve already built an amazing safety culture using OHSAS 18001, the transition is likely much easier than you expect!

The good news is that there is no new documentation or paperwork required. In fact, the new standard actively tries to reduce the amount of complex documentation in your management system.

The transition can best be described as moving from focusing on a standard to implementing a system. 

ISO 45001 is more of a system than a standard. You’re not just bringing your operations up to a certain standard for certification. You’re building the systems you need to keep your operations safe 365 days a year and for years to come.

Ready to find out more about ISO 45001 requirements and exactly what the certification journey entails? Check out our blog on this topic to find out everything you need to know about ISO 45001. 

What you need to know about ISO 45001 blog

Author Dan Ryder

Dan is an experienced copywriter with a master's degree from the Manchester Writing School. He joined EcoOnline in November 2022. 

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