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Case study: Implementing OHSAS 18001 in a wood processing company

Wood processing companies are open to an especially large number of hazards on a daily basis, and with irreversible consequences. Therefore, they are very interested in creating an effective Occupational Health and Safety Management System, and OHSAS 18001 and its guiding principles is one of the key elements in ensuring health and safety within the workplace in the modern day.

Implementing OHSAS 18001 in a wood processing company: How and why?

Implementing OHSAS 18001 in a wood processing company is broadly similar to any other workplace. A Health and Safety Policy will need to be written, and an OH&SMS (Occupational Health and Safety Management System) established. Similarly, the clauses of OHSAS 18001 need to be understood, executed, and followed; but, it was found that particular elements of the clause itself proved especially critical. Let’s examine these:

  • Legislation compliance: Legislation on personal safety, safety workwear, personal protective equipment, and site management must be analyzed, logged, communicated, and adhered to. With employee safety depending heavily on the correct operation of such pieces of legislation, it is vital that this information is gathered accurately and distributed to employees clearly.
  • Participation and consultation: As ever, the wood processing company has a special set of hazards (which we shall touch on later), and central to identification and mitigation of these is consultation and participation of the employees. Many employees will have worked in the sector for many years and will bring a wealth of information to their position, and will be well aware of many hazards and danger that lie in the workplace. Involvement and consultation will help you identify these hazards and risks more efficiently. The article How to meet participation and consultation requirements in ISO DIS 45001 can help you with this element.
  • Competence, training and awareness: Employees in wood processing companies have various levels of education; usually, the higher occupational health and safety risks affect less highly educated employees. Also, they find it more difficult to obey rules regarding protective equipment and heavy lifting. Making them aware of the hazards and training them to use the personal protective equipment properly is a big part of having an accident-free workplace. Does everyone know exactly what their role is within the OH&SMS? Has someone established a list of emergency contact numbers? Who ensures that the first aid kits are up to date? Does an accident book exist? These are just some of the questions that illustrate how important this element is to OH&S performance. The importance of training and awareness in OHSAS 18001 can provide you with extra detail on this element.

So, while the fundamentals of OHSAS 18001 are similar to implementing in many other sectors, emphasis on these elements certainly helped ensure that OHSAS 18001 was more effective in this particular sector. But, critically, the main difference was identifying hazards and risk within this sector – as they were markedly different from other implementations in different sectors. So, what was found in terms of hazards, and how were they dealt with? Let’s examine this:

  • Equipment-based hazards: As mentioned above, most wood processing companies have lots of equipment, whether manual tools, hydraulic, electrical, and pneumatic or a combination of all elements. It is vital that these are correctly serviced, everyone knows how to use them correctly, and any controls that should be in place exist. A training matrix can help you achieve operational excellence, and a preventive maintenance program and log can help ensure that machinery is maintained correctly.
  • Fumes, liquids, and related hazards: Wood processing companies will be working with various potentially hazardous agents and potentially poisonous fumes. It is critical to ensure that the correct ventilation and extraction exists, and knowledge is available on how to handle oils, lacquers, varnishes, and other harmful liquids, including what skin and eye protection you need to wear, and including datasheets and processes for dealing with any incidents or accidents that may occur within the center.
  • Lifting and physical hazards: Employees may need to lift blocks of wood, and training and guidance should be provided on this. Great care should also be taken if an employee is required to work at height, with suitable risk assessment undertaken first.
  • Hazardous machines: Cutting, grinding, polishing and crimping are all everyday occurrences in wood processing companies. It is vital that employees are trained, that machinery is in good working order, and that all mitigation of risk is considered before operation.
  • Moving vehicles: This is obvious, but it’s important that nobody in the wood processing company is struck by one! Ensure you have a process to avoid this.

Therefore, hazard identification and how those risks are dealt with are central to the OH&S performance of the organization.

Closing out the process

Many challenges were found by this wood processing company, and as ever, the identification of hazards specific to this sector and this particular workplace were central to the performance of the OH&SMS. Using employee feedback, consultation, and driving appropriate programs to ensure those risks were mitigated became easier in light of that, but having procedures to deal with accidents is also critical given the nature of the wood processing company. Concentrate on the fundamentals of the OHSAS 18001 standard, fulfill them, and take all employee feedback and advice on board, ensuring you close the discussion and education loop and have an OH&SMS that belongs to the employees, and not one person who administrates it and writes the policies. The results of your system will be reflected in how well you perform the above elements.

Use our free  Gap Analysis Tool to measure your OH&SMS against the 18001 standard.

Advisera Strahinja Stojanovic
Strahinja Stojanovic

Strahinja Stojanovic is certified as a lead auditor for the ISO 13485, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001 standards by RABQSA. He participated in the implementation of these standards in more than 100 SMEs, through the creation of documentation and performing in-house training for maintaining management systems, internal audits, and management reviews.