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ISO 14001 vs. OHSAS 18001: What is different and what is the same?

Author: Mark Hammar

If you have an environmental management system (EMS) in place using the requirements of ISO 14001, you will have a good system for controlling your risks when it comes to the environmental impact of your company. In fact, you may want to extend this risk management to other aspects of your business that include risk. If so, what is one of the first things that come to mind – occupational health & safety? With health & safety you will have other identifiable risks and legal obligations that are in your best interest to control.

You may wonder if it is possible to leverage the processes you have in place for environmental management to also look after health & safety concerns. The good news is that you can. It is not that difficult to integrate both systems, and this article will look at what extra steps need to be taken to put this in place. Even though ISO 14001 is controlled by the International Organization for Standardization and OHSAS 18001 is not (it is controlled by the British Standards Institute, or BSI), they follow the same structure and have much of the same wording; only the focus has changed from the environment to occupational health & safety.

What is the same with ISO 14001 & OHSAS 18001?

As stated above, OHSAS 18001 has kept the same structure as ISO 14001 with all of the same clauses and much of the same wording. There is still a policy and the standard still follows the plan-do-check-act format of ISO 14001. Annex A of the OHSAS 18001 standard even has a table comparing OHSAS 18001 to ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, and they match title for title except in the few instances mentioned below. In this light, it is easy to adopt the practices and procedures utilized for your ISO 14001 EMS implementation so that they cover the few changes and additional requirements of OHSAS 18001.

The management system elements that are very similar from ISO 14001 to OHSAS 18001 are as follows:

  • Legal and other requirements
  • Objectives and targets
  • Competence, training and awareness
  • Communication
  • Documentation
  • Control of documents
  • Operational control
  • Monitoring and measurement
  • Evaluation of compliance
  • Nonconformity, corrective and preventive actions
  • Control of records
  • Internal audit
  • Management review

For a good overview of plan-do-check-act in the structure of ISO 14001, see ISO 14001 requirements and the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle.

What are the main parallels?

The first parallel comes in the definitions; where ISO 14001 had definitions for terms such asenvironmental and environmental aspect, the OHSAS 18001 requirements include definitions about occupational health & safety such as hazard identification, incident, and ill health. These definitions are necessary to define the standard as applicable to occupational health & safety.

The second big parallel is from environmental to occupational health & safety (OH&S), which happens throughout the document. Where ISO 14001 had an environmental policy, OHSAS 18001 has an OH&S policy, legal environmental requirements become legal OH&S requirements, and so on. Since companies have a lot of the same types of commitments for both health & safety and environmental management, such as laws to follow and risks to identify and manage, these requirements can be worded the same with this change in applicability from environment to OH&S.

The third big parallel is in the planning of the management system. Where ISO 14001 talks about identification of environmental aspects and impact, OHSAS 18001 requirements deal with identification of OH&S hazards and risks. Just like with ISO 14001, these hazards need to be identified and their risk assessed, and they need to have controls where needed.

For a good discussion of the procedure of environmental aspects that could also apply to OH&S hazards, please read ISO 14001 Environmental Aspects: What are they, how do they work? & 4 steps in identification and evaluation of environmental aspects.

The last big parallel is in the requirements of emergency preparedness and response. While the requirements are almost identical, they deal with different emergencies, and as such, different risks. Additionally, OHSAS 18001 includes requirements to include interested external parties such as fire departments in the plans for emergency response, which is not in ISO 14001.

What are the additions?

In total there are five main additions in OHSAS 18001 that are not in ISO 14001. While they are small in number, they do have some significance and should be investigated further to determine how they would apply to your organization. Here is a listing of them:

  • In hazard identification there is an inclusion of risk assessment and determining controls associated with these hazards.
  • Resources, roles, responsibility and authority include additional requirements for accountability of individuals.
  • Communication includes additions of participation and consultation with employees.
  • The section on “measurement and monitoring” is now titled “performance measurement and monitoring.”
  • The section on nonconformity, corrective action and preventive action is expanded to include requirements for incident investigation.

Integration isn’t that hard

As you can see, if you want to manage the risks associated with occupational health & safety there is very little to add or modify in the processes and procedures that manage the risk of environmental impact. A well-implemented and maintained environmental management system can be easily, and quite quickly, adapted to include the requirements for occupational health & safety. A great many companies have implemented ISO 14001 with OHSAS 18001 as an integrated system, and many have also included ISO 9001 into this integrated management system (see also: Is integrating ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001 that hard?). The management system is all about managing risks, and although the risks may differ, they can be managed in the same way. Why not see if this improvement could be for you?

Click here to download a free template  Project Plan for ISO 14001 implementation that will show you which steps to take in your ISO 14001 implementation.

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One response to “ISO 14001 vs. OHSAS 18001: What is different and what is the same?”

  1. Mumsy Modiba says:

    Hello, when was this article written. i need to reference it

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