A “Plethora” of OH&S Standards

| May 15, 2007

The Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines “plethora” as an “overabundance or excess.”  That certainly describes the situation when it comes to OH&S standards, particularly OH&S management system standards.


There are international OH&S standards, there are national OH&S standards and there are state and local OH&S standards.  In addition, there are standards developed by individual organizations and government agencies and there are “standards” developed and promoted by individuals who believe they have “a better idea” when it comes to safety management.

Nor is there any lack of OH&S management system standards.  In their 2005 survey of OH&S management system standard usage, the OHSAS 18001 Working Group identified over 40 different OH&S management system standards that were in use in various places around the world.

For the following reasons, coming up with a definitive list of OH&S management system standards is nearly an impossible task:

  1. Individuals differ in their view on the criteria that establishes a document as a “standard.”  For example, some individuals view OHSAS 18001 as a standard; others vehemently argue that it is not because it was developed by an independent group.

  2. There is disagreement on what is included — or is not included — within the scope of occupational safety and health and therefore what qualifies as an OH&S standard as opposed to an environmental standard, a general safety standard or a property protection standard.  For example, what are fire prevention standards?

  3. Finally, even if there is agreement on the first two points, there can be disagreement on whether a particular document states requirements for a “management system.”  Does a standard contain manditory “shall” clauses or does it simply provide “good advice” that you can accept — or simply ignore.  Does it matter?

Some of the OH&S management system standards currently available include the following:

  • OHSAS 18001:1999 — developed by an independent group of national standards organizations and certification bodies.

  • ANSI/AIHA Z10:2005 — U.S. national standard

  • CSA Z1000-06 — Canadian national standard

  • AS/NZS 4801:2001 — Australia / New Zealand national standard

  • ILO-OSH 2001 — standard developed by the International Labor Organization

Category: Standards & Certification

Comments (1)

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  1. N.V.MANI says:

    There is need to develop an ISO standard for OH&S management system,in the same way ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 were developed.
    It should be possible that OHSAS 18001 can be taken as basic document which can be adapted by all countries after necessary amendments.
    The new ISO standard has to incorporate the main features of other OH&S management system standards viz.ANSI/AIHA Z10:2005 , CSA Z1000-06, AS/NZS 4801:2001 , ILO-OSH 2001
    currently available.
    Preparation of the ISO standard is through Committeee / sub committee constituted of experts, representing all countries who have formulated their own national standards on OH &S.
    There shall be world consensus to the new ISO Standard.