OH&S Management Systems – Back to the Beginning

| August 16, 2007

In reviewing my last two blogs, it struck me that I had started in the middle and really needed to go back to the beginning in discussing the five requirements set out in the first paragraph of Section 4.1 of OHSAS 18001:2007.

This paragraph reads:

The organization shall establish, document, implement, maintain and continually improve an OH&S management system in accordance with the requirements of this OHSAS standard and determine how it will fulfill these requirements.

So how does an organization establish an OH&S management system?

The dictionary defines establish as a verb meaning to “bring into being,” “set up” or “lay the groundwork for.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/establish)

Since most organizations already have at least some existing OH&S processes and programs in place, establishing an OH&S management system is usually more like remodeling a kitchen than building a new house.  It is often more difficult and expensive than you think it is going to be, you have to be careful about messing with existing structures and systems (“I can’t move this wall?”), and you can’t put everything on hold until you are done (“Just where am I going to cook breakfast?”).

Like any other “remodeling” project, you need to complete four tasks if your OH&S implementation is going to be successful:

  1. Determine your goals
  2. Decide on your scope
  3. Investigate what you already have
  4. Develop a plan to get where you want

Step 1 – Determine your Goals

Why are you doing this? 

If you are remodeling your kitchen, it may be because you just can’t live with your old appliances anymore or maybe you need more storage space for all those time-saving gadgets you bought.

If you are establishing an OH&S management system, it may be to achieve third-party certification or it may be that you want to achieve “world class” status.

Your particular goals, what you want to accomplish and when you need to achieve — and the amount of money you are willing to spend — will impact the kind of OH&S management system you implement.

Step 2 – Decide on Your Scope

What are you going to include?  How big is it going to be?

If you are remodeling your kitchen, you may decide to stay within the existing space and simply replace your old cabinets or you may decide you don’t really need a diningroom anymore and you want to turn it into your new kitchen.

If you are establishing an OH&S management system, you need to determine what — and who — you are going to include within the scope of your system.  Are you including all your processes and facilities or just some?  Are you including your off-site sales personnel, at-home workers, repair staff, contractor personnel, customers and/or visitors?  How are you going to address their health and safety?

Once you decide on your scope, you are required to document your decision and address the OH&S hazards and risks within the scope you have defined.

Step 3 – Investigate What You Have

What are my existing resources?

If you have remodeled a kitchen, you know that it is really important to know exactly what space, plumbing and electrical supplies you have to work with.  A new 36″ cabinet will not fit into a 35″ space.

Similarly, you will save yourself time, money and grief if you determine what is already in place in your organization before you start creating new processes and writing management system documentation.  This task of “investigating what you’ve got” is commonly referred to as performing a gap assessment or gap analysis.

Step 4 – Develop a Plan

How am I going to get there?

I can guarantee that if you don’t develop a plan, both remodeling your kitchen and implementing an OH&S management system is going to be more expensive and take much longer than you think.

Developing a plan and, more importantly, having the resources to implement it approved by top management before you start will be critical to your success.

Once you have completed these four steps, you are ready to start actually developing your OH&S management system.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2007)

Category: OHSMS Implementation

Comments (2)

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  1. Jodrian Freitas says:

    Do you have any examples on how to consider behaviour, capabilities and other human factors in the identification of hazards, risk assessment and determination of controls?

  2. Dene says:

    I am looking for assistance as to “What are the first few steps required by OHSAS 18001 to start on creating a chassis for to work from?”

    Anyone who is able to give me suggestions will be greatly appreciated.I ama tradesman tasked with this project and have had no formal training to do this before.
    thnak you for your time.
    Dene