Transitioning from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001 (Part 1)

Updated: Jul 29


Part 1 of a 2 part series. See Part 2 on January 21st. To get these topics in your inbox, use the newsletter signup on this page.

If your organization is already certified in OHSAS 18001 and is looking to maintain international recognition, ISO 45001:2018 is the replacement, but has some upgrades briefly explained here.  Transitioning to the new standard will be required to maintain certification as OHSAS 18001 will be withdrawn on March 12, 2021.


Although organizations follow renowned international standards for safety, it still takes a high level of excellence and maintenance in the form of planning, research, workforce involvement and management commitment to continually improve the process from all levels of the organization.  If there is no employee involvement and commitment from management at the very top, success is only superficial.


So what’s the difference between these two standards and what will organizations need to incorporate into their process?  There are eight key differences between these standards. Here, we’ll look at the top three which can be the most difficult to achieve when it comes to organizational excellence (see Part 2 later this month for the other 5 key differences):

  1. Top Management Commitment

  2. Health and Safety Manager’s delegation of duties

  3. Culture

The success of an ISO 45001 certification depends highly upon the appetite of the organization for change, and whether the changes are demonstrated through commitment by top management:


Top Management Commitment: There are several avenues that management can take to demonstrate commitment, including:

  1. Being visible in the field conducting audits, inspections, talking to employees about safety

  2. Holding and leading safety meetings or conducting safety training

  3. Ensuring that budgetary funds are available for safety activities, professional services, consulting, and certified safety professional staffing

  4. Management can also demonstrate their commitment through policy statements, procedures for accountability and continual improvement efforts.

Delegation of H&S Responsibilities: The delegation of H&S responsibilities from the H&S Manager to all levels of the organization is a significant change.  Health & Safety will have to be incorporated into the entire process to demonstrate that management has taken a stronger leadership role in Health & Safety.  This can be quite difficult for companies that have relied on a safety manager for implementation. When one person is responsible for managing safety and health, there is undue risk placed on a single person.  ISO 45001 takes the approach that if this responsibility is spread between multiple roles, true process improvement can begin and risks can be better controlled.


Culture: Culture is the thermostat in an organization that determines the risk tolerance: the overall approach to an organizations attitude to safety.  Approaching safety with a cultural mindset ensures the best result. To change culture, an organization must look at changing employee experiences, which in turn changes employee beliefs, which effects employee behavior and thus effects a result.  Most importantly, a good safety culture exists where employees can report safety concerns to management without fear of retaliation. Then management must be committed to having an open mind, and accepting suggestions, and must diligently provide feedback on corrections in a timely manner, especially regarding hazards or concerns that put employees at risk of injury.


All in all, Safety & Health Standards have been proven over and over to be the most effective and efficient way to design a process for ultimate results, thus reducing risks, injuries and incidents.  Despite the new requirements to the ISO 45001, the goal of having any Health & Safety Management Process remains the same: “reduce unacceptable risks and ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved in the organization’s activities”.  Transitioning to the new ISO 45001 Standard must be done with intentionality and excellence, as it requires attention to detail and a well organized and dedicated team.

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Safework Solutions offers a host of safety management solutions within a fully integrated HSE Software to manage your HSE Business processes.  

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