Identifying Legal and Other Requirements in an OHSMS

| July 7, 2011

I received a follow-up e-mail from a reader asking for additional clarification about the requirements for identifying legal and other requirements in OHSAS 18001.  Her organization has tasked her with updating their existing ISO 14001 matrix to include “OH&S requirements, aspects and categories”.  She asked whether she was wasting her time given my response to a reader’s question I posted in a previous blog about identifying legal and other requirements.

There are similarities between the requirements in the ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards.  Section 4.3.2 of OHSAS 18001 – like Section 4.3.2 in ISO 14001 – requires that an organization establish a procedure to identify its applicable legal and other requirements.  (It is important to keep in mind that a procedure is defined as a specified way of doing some activity.)

The majority of companies use some sort of matrix – often a Word table or Excel spreadsheet – to document the results of their determination of which legal and other requirements are applicable to them.  This is often called a Legal Register.  This matrix or Legal Register provides the answer to the question – “What are the legal and other requirements we must comply with?”  (Although creation of a Legal Register is a common practice, it is NOT required.  What is required is that you follow whatever your procedure says you are going to do to identify your applicable legal and other requirements.)

This matrix or listing of applicable legal and other requirements may include an entry such as this (for a U.S. based company) –

Activity – Storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia in abc and xyz department(s)

Regulatory and Other Requirements Citations – 29 CFR 1910.111, ANSI B31.5, ASTM A-53-69

Identified Legal and Other Requirements

  1. Inspect all equipment and systems used for the storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia to determine they meet the following specified requirements in the OSHA standard and the ANSI and ASTM consensus standards (actual requirements spelled out here in detail, or even better, in a detailed checklist that can be used for the inspection)
  2. Mark all containers with nameplates and markings as follows….
  3. Instruct (train) individuals in anhydrous ammonia unloading procedures
  4. Etc.

When identifying legal requirements, it is helpful to start out with an “action word” such as inspect, mark, train, notify, record, document, establish….etc.  The most important legal requirements are the ones that require that some action be taken and it is important to clearly identify what that action is.  In some cases, this will require careful reading of the regulation or standard to determine what action is needed to ensure compliance.

What OHSAS 18001 does not require, but ISO 14001 does, is the identification of how each identified legal and other requirement applies to the aspects the organization has identified.  First, there is no such thing as “aspects” in an OHSAS 18001 OHSMS.  What you need to identify in your OHSMS is OH&S hazards not aspects.  In addition, each OH&S hazard is not required to be tied to a specific legal requirement nor are identified legal requirements required to be tied to specific OH&S hazards.

What is important is that you (1) identify WHAT needs to be done to be in compliance, (2) establish processes to take the required actions as an integral part of your OHSMS and (3) evaluate whether or not the appropriate compliance actions has been completed (see Section 4.5.2 of OHSAS 18001).

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2011)

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Category: OHS Laws & Legal Compliance

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