How to determine scope of the OH&SMS

It is an important first step for any management system to define the scope of the management system, and this is no different with an Occupational Heath & Safety Management System (OH&SMS) created using the requirements of OHSAS 18001. Defining the scope of your OH&SMS is the third important step in the process of implementing your management system because many of the activities that follow depend on this scope being identified. It is impossible to create the OH&SMS successfully without knowing your scope.

Check out this blog post for more on the 12 Steps for implementation and certification against OHSAS 18001.

How do you determine the scope?

Unfortunately, there is very little information within the OHSAS 18001 standard about the scope of the OH&S management system. It is first stated in paragraph 4.1, the first paragraph of the actual requirements of the standard, which simply states that the organization shall define and document the scope of the OH&S management system. This is only clarified a little when it is mentioned that the OH&S policy is within the defined scope of the OH&S management system. However, there is some information that can help clarify what you need to look at in order to determine the scope of your OH&SMS.

First, the scope of the OHSAS 18001 document is very clear on the first point that the standard is applicable to any organization that wishes to establish an OH&S management system to eliminate or minimize risks to personnel and other interested parties who could be exposed to OH&S hazards associated with the activities of the company. This quite clearly means that your OH&SMS needs to have a scope that includes any activities that you do that create health & safety hazards. If you determine that a specific function within your organization has no OH&S hazards this does not need to be part of your scope, but conversely if you find an area of your organization that has hazards this needs to be within the scope of the OH&SMS.

Secondly, the mention of the scope within the OH&S policy requirements goes on to talk about being appropriate to the nature and scale of the organization’s OH&S risks. Along with supporting the items above that need to be included in the OH&SMS, this also makes it clear that you should not include anything in your scope that is outside the scope of what your organization does. This probably goes without saying, but if you do not have chemical hazards in your organization, then the scope should not include mention of chemical hazards or legislation.

In short, you should ask yourself what activities at your organization present OH&S hazards. These activities define the scope of your OH&S management system along with your definition of your location and the legislative requirements that are applicable to your organization. If you are a software development company located in Paris, France where you have no legal requirements and your OH&S hazards are largely ergonomic then your scope should include only these elements. One example may be:

XYZ Company provides custom software for our customers from our location in Paris, France; our OH&S scope is limited to proper ergonomic considerations for our employees and limiting chemical usage for cleaning purposes.

Know your scope as it defines the limits of your OH&SMS

By defining the limits of your management system, you can better focus your activities when it comes to properly controlling and improving your processes with respect to occupational health & safety. Any processes outside of the scope of your OH&SMS should not be included in your audits, and therefore should not be included in your activities. This will allow you to ensure that you do not put resources where they do not belong, saving your time and money.

For a graphical representation of the process for implementing an OH&SMS using OHSAS 18001 check out this  Diagram of OHSAS 18001:2007 Implementation Process.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.