Incidents vs. Nonconformities in OHSAS 18001:2007

| August 2, 2007

In a previous blog, I listed five significant changes made to OHSAS 18001 in the 2007 revision.  One of these significant changes is the clarification of the role of incident investigation in an occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS).  In particular, incident investigation is now a separate subsection of section 4.5.3 — Incident investigation, nonconformity, corrective action and preventive action with its own specific requirements.


An incident is not the same as a nonconformity.


First, the definitions are not the same.  OHSAS 18001 uses the ISO 9000 and ISO 14001 definition of a nonconformity — the non-fulfillment of a requirement.  An incident is defined in OHSAS 18001 as a “work-related event(s) in which an injury or ill health (regardless of severity) or fatality occurred, or could have occurred.”  An accident is a particular type of incident in which an injury or illness actually occurs.  A near-miss is an incident where no injury or illness occurs.  Therefore, an incident can be either an accident or a near-miss.


An incident may relate to a nonconformity — but then again, it may not.  It is possible to have accidents and near-misses even if an organization has fulfilled its occupational health and safety management system requirements.  Similarly, an organization may have nonconformities, e.g. “paperwork” issues, which would not be considered incidents.


Not all incidents are the same

  • Some incidents are catastrophic disaster events (i.e. emergencies) such as bridge collapses or explosion.

  • Some incidents involve unseen hazards, e.g. exposure to chemical releases or biological agents.

  • Some incidents involve human factors or behaviors, some involve equipment failure, some involve faulty procedures or processes, and some involve all of these.

  • Some involve multiple injuries and deaths; in others, there are no injuries.

Therefore, an organization’s incident investigation procedure needs to be flexible enough to deal with a variety of different types of incidents.

Want some ideas for conducting incident investigations?

Check out the links to various sites on preparing incident investigation reports at


© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2007)

Category: OHSAS 18001:2007 Revisions, OHSMS Implementation

Comments (5)

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  1. T.S.SRINIVASAN says:

    As per Heinrich theory of accidents

    300 near miss leads to incidents -which has potential to lead to accidents.

    29 incidents leads to one accident

    300 near miss–29 incidents –one accident.
    So to collect data and investigate these incidents one can avoid accidents in the early stage itself.

  2. R Low says:

    The attempt here to distinguish the difference between Incident and Non-conformity could be better illustrated by giving examples to clarify their boundaries. The Safety Manager who has limited knowledge of ISO 9000 tends to lump the two together. They give a miss to the non-conformity that possibly relates to a case e.g. where certain hygiene tests show one or few requirements not being met.

    Would you have a simple powerpoint presentation to share with us on the key changes made in the 2007 edition of OHSAS 18001. By the way, has OHSAS 18002:2000 been revised to keep abreast of the revised standard.

    Thanks !

  3. Thea says:

    The revision of OHSAS 18002 is currently underway. The first draft will be reviewed in a meeting the first week in October 2007. It is anticipated that the revised 18002 will be published in June/July 2008.

  4. Darion says:

    hi nice post, i enjoyed it

  5. Responsibility for Corrective Action…

    Who assigns corrective and preventative action requests, and who has to remedy them?