Achieving Health and Safety Success with OHSAS 18001
Workplace Law recently carried out one of the biggest surveys in the facilities management industry and one of the key findings showed that over half of clients and 77% of service providers have already implemented an occupational health and safety management system.
Yet, when we undertake gap analyses for our clients to ascertain what works and what doesn’t we generally find that they have good practice but their system is fragmented. Inconsistency within the same company is confusing for staff, subcontractors and anyone else who visits the site and is unclear about what standards they need to follow.
Implementing the international standard OHSAS 18001 will give you the tools to develop a consistent approach which is especially important when you have multiple sites. It will give site visitors the confidence that they can go onto any site and the same standards of health and safety are going to be applied.
OHSAS 18001 ultimately demonstrates that a good health and safety culture is embedded into your business from senior management all the way down and that the right people are responsible for health safety, rather that it simply being a way of complying with the law.
A good health and safety culture will lead to a reduction in accidents and ill health and, therefore, large cost savings which can be critical particularly when budgets are now are a key factor in whether you win or lose a project. A good safety management practice can eliminate significant costs sometimes as far as up to 25%. Given that most businesses responding to our research believe that health and safety costs will increase in the next two to three years it makes implementing a strong system even more valuable.
OHSAS 18001 can also give you the competitive edge in a difficult market. It will provide confidence not only to your existing clients who are going to be reassured that you’re taking health and safety seriously but also to your in-house staff and contractors and others who might be affected by your actions.
Having an embedded system like this can also significantly reduce admin. For many clients and suppliers having to get onto preferred contractor lists, having to deal with health and safety questionnaires is a huge burden but if an organisation is able to demonstrate that they have 18001 then there is very little left to explore.
Having a good policy is your starting point but you need to make sure that it is understand by all and that a strategy is in place showing clearly what you need to do, when you need to do it by and who will be involved. The system itself will vary depending on what resources you have available, the scope of your strategy and how much work is required on the actual system itself.
Once implemented for at least 6-9 months, you then need to be able to demonstrate that you are continually improving by actually doing what you said you were going to do and then proactively measuring and reviewing your performance by carrying out audits, reviewing risk assessments, implementing health and safety campaigns and understanding how that, alongside the reactive measures – occupational health, accident reporting, near miss reporting, etc., has made a difference.
To achieve accreditation, the first stage of independent assessment is to find out if you are actually ready to go for the full assessment. If successful then this moves to the accreditation assessment
What the external accreditor will do is firstly understand fully how your system works. They would then actually go and visit a sample number of sites to make sure the system is being applied consistently throughout and interview senior management and various members of staff.
They will want to see that things are happening and that it’s a live working health and safety system – they’ll be looking for evidence that the policy has been reviewed, that your risk assessments have taken place, that you’ve communicated to staff and that you’ve acted on putting in place additional control measures.
You don’t just stop when you receive the initial accreditation either, its on-going and the auditors will need to come back periodically just to check that things are being maintained and you are continuing to improve in order to ensure your certification remains valid and up to date.
Achieving OHSAS 18001 doesn’t have to be complex; it’s more important that people understand it and are using it. The confidence from achieving accreditation and from successful auditor visits will help both senior managers and staff on-site buy into the health and safety culture and see the benefits for themselves. Putting aside the accreditation, for senior managers to be able to go and sleep comfortably at night, I don’t think you can put a price on that.
Head of Health and Safety at Workplace Law
Simon has over ten years’ experience as a health and safety professional, with specialist disciplines in occupational health and safety management systems, fire safety and construction management. Simon is a Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, Graduate Member of the Institute of Fire Engineers and a Registered CDM Coordinator with the Association for Project Safety.