Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS)

What is an OHSMS?

A management system is a proactive process in which an organized set of components enable an organization to accomplish a set of goals. An OHSMS is a framework that allows an organization to consistently identify and control its health and safety risks, reduce the potential for incidents, help achieve compliance with health and safety legislation and continually improve its performance.

What are the advantages?

Advantages include a safer workplace, improved employee morale, reduced costs, stakeholder confidence, and more.

Most successful OHSMSs are based on a common set of key elements. These include: management leadership, employee participation, hazard identification, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement.

OHSMS Origins and Current Guidelines

The idea of a health and safety management system or program is not a new concept. OSHA published safety and health program management guidelines in 1989 which can be found at https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=12909. The Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) 18001 is a well-known British standard that was developed in 1999 by more than a dozen international bureaus and certification bodies. Since 1999, the International Labor Office (ILO), numerous countries, and other organizations have developed OHSMS guidelines.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) developed a U.S. consensus standard on OHSMS with the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) in 2005 entitled ANSI/AIHA Z10. Canada developed guidelines in 2006 entitled CSA Z1000. Australia and New Zealand have several OHSMS standards and guidelines as well.

ISO 45001, Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements, is currently under development and in draft form, and is expected to be published in October 2016. The first draft was available as of July 2014 (http://www.iso.org/iso/news.htm?refid=Ref1874). ISO 45001 adopted a fair amount of the OHSAS 18001 specifications. However, a key difference between the OHSAS 18001 and the ISO 45001 is the stronger focus on the “context” of an organization, as well as a stronger role for top management and leadership. The new context forces organizations to focus not only on their internal employees, but also their contractors and suppliers and how their work might affect the surrounding community. ISO 45001 requires health and safety aspects to be part of an overall management system and no longer just an added extra. This standard will be easily integrated with the current well known certifications (ISO 9001 for quality and ISO 14001 for environmental management).

As with the other ISO standards, the ISO 45001 is intended to be applicable to any organization regardless of its size, type and nature. All of the requirements are intended to be integrated into an organization’s management processes. Information about the standard can be found here http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_45001_briefing_note.pdf.

Will this remain a best practice or become regulatory?

In November 2015, OSHA released for public comment a draft of Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines (SHPM guidelines – OSHA.gov). These guidelines replace the 1989 document by the same name, and serve as an update to the related Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2). Given the current economic climate and other priorities on OSHA’s regulatory agenda, ruling on this is not likely to be made in the near future. The public comment period on the draft guidelines closes on February 15, 2016.


OSHA Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines