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How to manage interested parties in OHSAS 18001

In light of the recent changes to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, particularly the introduction of requirements regarding interested parties and their needs and expectations, more and more people are wondering about the role of interested parties in the OH&SMS (Occupational Health and Safety Management System) and whether they have really addressed the relevant requirements in OHSAS 18001 related to interested parties.

OHSAS 18001 mentions interested parties for the first time in section 1, Scope, as a possible reason for implementing the OH&SMS; however, unlike ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, it doesn’t have a separate clause with requirements for interested parties, but rather spreads them across the standard. In this article we will examine what the standard actually requires regarding interested parties, and what are some possible ways to address those requirements.

Who are interested parties?

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The stakes are significantly higher in OHSAS 18001 than in other management system standards, considering that human lives are involved and in many cases, the interested parties are directly affected by the OH&SMS because the hazards can be directly related to them. So, let’s see who these interested parties are. An interested party can be any person or group inside or outside the organization that can be affected by or concerned with the OH&S performance of the organization. This includes primarily internal interested parties, such as employees, but also external interested parties such as subcontractors, legal authorities, and customers. Although the standard does not explicitly require an organization to identify interested parties and their requirements, interested parties play a very important role in the OH&SMS, to the level that they can affect the way that the standard is implemented and the OH&SMS is maintained.

Requirements related to the interested parties

4.2 OH&S Policy – The first requirement related to the interested parties is the development of the OH&S Policy. The standard requires the policy to include the commitment to at least complying with legal and other requirements, but OHSAS 18002 — Guidelines for the implementation of OHSAS 18001:2007, says that the organization needs to consider the needs of persons working under the control of the organization and the views of the interested parties when developing an OH&S Policy. Also, the organization needs to make the policy available to interested parties, either through publication on their website or by providing a printed copy on request. For more information about the OH&S Policy, see: How to write an OH&S Policy.

4.3.2 Legal and other requirements – This clause contains the most requirements related to interested parties, as they fall into “other requirements.” The standard requires the organization to develop and maintain a procedure for identifying and accessing those requirements that are applicable to it. “Other requirements” need to be taken into account when establishing and maintaining the OH&SMS, and the information about legal and other requirements needs to be communicated to people working under the control of the organization and to interested parties. For more information about legal and other requirements, see: How to identify and comply with legal requirements in OHSAS 18001.

4.3.3 Objectives and programs – Unlike any other management system standard, OHSAS 18001 requires the organization to consider the views of interested parties when defining and reviewing its objectives. These views can be expressed through legal and other requirements, communication with external interested parties, or during consultation and participation activities, and this information should reflect on the objectives. For more information about defining OH&S objectives and programs, see: How to define OHSAS 18001 objectives and programs.

4.4.3 Communication, participation and consultation – Considering the importance of the interested parties’ feedback, the standard requires that the communication procedure defines rules for receiving, documenting, and responding to relevant communication from interested parties. Also required are the consultation and participation of workers related to various OH&S topics, as well as consultation with subcontractors and relevant interested parties regarding important matters related to the OH&SMS. This can include information concerning its normal operations or potential emergency situations. For more information, see: How to comply with OHSAS 18001 communication requirements.

4.4.7 Emergency preparedness and response – When planning emergency response, the organization must take into account the needs of interested parties, e.g., emergency services and neighbors. Also, it can be appropriate to include the interested parties in testing the procedure for responding to emergency situations, especially if the interested party is a subcontractor working within the facilities of the organization. For more information, see: How to ensure effective emergency preparedness and response in OHSAS 18001.

4.6 Management review – Among other mandatory inputs for management [link] review [link to ] , the top management must also take into account relevant communication with interested parties, including complaints, because it can provide crucial insight on what can be improved within the OH&SMS. For more information, see: How to perform management review in OHSAS 18001.

The OH&SMS should suit those affected by it

Considering that OHSAS 18001 is dealing with protecting employees and others working under the organization, it affects the interested parties in the most profound way. Interested parties are not only the employees, subcontractors, and customers, but also their families, and that is the reason why the interested parties are involved in every step of implementation and maintenance of the standard, from defining the policy, to hazards identification, to management review. Having in mind the needs and expectations of interested parties when implementing and maintaining the OH&SMS will enable the organization not only to establish an effective system, but also to show its friendly face to all who depend on it.

Use this free  OHSAS 18001 Gap Analysis tool to find out how compliant you are with the requirements for interested parties.

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