What is Occupational Safety & Health?

| July 11, 2007

In a previous blog, I noted that five significant changes were made in the 2007 revision of OHSAS 18001.

One of these changes is in the intended coverage of OHSAS 18001.  As noted in the Scope section of the revised standard, OHSAS 18001 is “intended to address occupational health and safety, and is not intended to address other health and safety issues such as employee wellbeing/wellness programmes, product safety, property damage or environmental impacts.”

Several changes were made to the standard to clarify the intended scope of coverage – most notably in the revision and/or addition of several key definitions.

First, the definition of hazard no longer includes “damage to property or damage to the workplace environment.”  It was concluded that these types of damage are part of the field of asset management – not part of occupational safety and health.  For purposes of OHSAS 18001, hazards are limited to sources, situations or acts with the potential for harm in terms of human injury or ill health.  The focus is on harm to humans not property.

New definitions were added to the standard for “ill health” and “workplace.”  Neither of these terms were defined in the 1999 standard.  Ill health is defined as “identifiable, adverse physical or mental condition arising from and/or made worse by a work activity or work-related situation.”  The addition of this definition reflects an increased emphasis on health within OHSAS 18001.  Workplace is defined as “any physical location in which work-related activities are performed under the control of the organization.”  This definition is consistent with changes made throughout the standard that tie the OH&S responsibilities of the organization to areas and persons “under its control.”

Occupational health and safety (OH&S) is defined in OHSAS 18001 as “conditions and factors that affect, or could affect, the health and safety of employees, temporary workers, contractor personnel, visitors or any other person in the workplace.”  A note has been added to this definition that states “organizations may have a legal requirement for the health and safety of persons beyond the immediate workplace or who are exposed to workplace activities.”  Organizations may need to take such legal obligations into account in developing their OH&S management system.

Organizations seeking certification to OHSAS 18001:2007 need to determine and document the scope their OH&S management systems (a new requirement in section 4.1 of the standard).  This will mean careful consideration of exactly which workplaces and what individuals are covered.  For some organizations, this may mean more attention to issues such as the visitor safety and evaluation of hazards to workers working at off-site locations (e.g. transit drivers).

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2007)

Category: Standards & Certification

Comments (5)

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  1. Bob Westly says:

    OHSAS 18001 does not include definitions of the key teminology “hazardous event” and “hazardous exposure” (see 3.21). Commentary on these terms in relation to “hazard,” and in the context of the risk assessment process, would be helpful.

  2. Thea says:

    You are correct that the standard does not define “hazardous event” or “hazardous exposure” – terms that are used in the definition of “risk.” Risk is defined as “combination of the likelihood of an occurrence of a hazardous event or exposure and the severity of injury or ill health that can be caused by the event or exposure.”

    The approach to definitions in ISO standards (also used for OHSAS 18001) is that if a word is not defined in the standard, you look to the dictionary definition. There are several possible dictionary definitions of “hazardous”; however, the one that fits best is “creating a hazard.” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law cited on http://www.dictionary.com). Hazard is a defined term in the standard. It is defined as “source, situation, or act with a potential for harm in terms of human injury or ill health, or a combination of these”. Therefore, a risk, for purposes of OHSA 18001, is a “chance of harm” that takes into account both the probability (likelihood of occurence) and the severity of potential harm.

    An organization determines its “risks” (chances of harm) associated with the hazardous events or hazardous exposures that can arise from its “hazards” in order to identify and implement the controls that will reduce its risks to an acceptable level (defined as “acceptable risk”). The process by which an organization does this determination is called risk assessment.

  3. Roy Low says:

    Dear George,

    I like to have some insights as to how mental condition of employee can be gauged while preparing for the risk assessment of a work activity, as suggested in the defintion of ‘ill health.’

    Please enlighten, my friend.

  4. Thea says:

    Excellent question.

  5. rlow2k says:

    How can clause 4.3.1 (c & d) be demonstrated ?