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Comparing Differences Between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001


While OHSAS 18001 has been widely embraced, what's ISO 45001 going to bring to safety leaders?

While both standards are targeted toward improvements in working conditions, ISO 45001 takes a proactive approach to risk control that starts with the incorporation of health and safety in the overall management system of the organization, thus driving top management to have a stronger leadership role in the safety and health program.

OHSAS 18001 takes a reactive approach of hazard control by delegation of hazard control responsibilities to safety management personnel rather than integrating the responsibilities into the overall management system of the company.

Understanding the differences between the programs is important for employers as they move into the new system and explore the organizational possibilities. Below are several of the main differences between the two standards:

Management Commitment

In ISO 45001, management commitment is central to the standard’s effectiveness and integration. The shift in the new standard is toward managerial ownership. The safety culture of the organization is to be supported by the engagement of management with workers, and demonstrated by a top-down emphasis. Instead of providing oversight of the program, management should be true safety leaders.

This means an active, participatory role in the organization’s safety and health for C-suite and those in management. Protection of workers, as well as performance improvements, are roles of leadership under the new ISO 45001.

Worker Involvement

Workers also have broader participation in the new standard, with employees working with management to implement the safety management system (SMS). Employees should be provided training and education to identify risks and help the company create a successful safety program. Internal audits and risk assessment results should be openly shared with workers and allow for employee input. According to ISO 45001, the responsibility of safety management belongs to everyone in the organization.

Risk Versus Hazard

ISO 45001 follows a preventative process, which requires hazard risks to be evaluated and remedied, as opposed to hazard control, under OHSAS 18001. Think of the new standard as proactive, rather than reactive. In adopting ISO 45001, your organization will find and identify potential hazard risks before they cause accidents and injuries. Audits, job safety analyses and monitoring of workplace conditions will be vital to ensure the proactive approach prescribed by ISO 45001.


One obvious and important difference between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001 is the structure. The new standard is based on Annex SL, which replaced ISO Guide 83, and applies a universal structure, terminology and definitions. You’re probably well familiar with this structure if you also use other systems such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. Through using the same structure, multiple management systems are easier to implement in a more streamlined and efficient way.

Ultimately, ISO 45001 can be best summarized as a whole-company, proactive approach to incorporating a safety culture. It is a framework that can take your organization to the next level in safety and health.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.