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Throughout their professional careers, Kathy A. Seabrook and Bryant Winterholer have participated in standards development activities both in the U.S. and abroad and have worked extensively with the Occupational Safety and Health Assessment Series (OHSAS) 18001 and OHSAS 18002 standards. In this interview, Seabrook and Winterholer provide background on OHSAS 18001 and OHSAS 18002 and explain how SH&E professionals can best incorporate these standards into their current safety practices.

What are OHSAS 18001 and 18002 and how are they implemented into SH&E practices?

Seabrook: OHSAS 18001:2007 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems outlines the requirements to establish an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system for an organization by providing a framework for identifying, assessing and managing workplace safety and health risks.

The OHSAS 18002 Project Group is working to revise OHSAS 18002:2000/2002 to align it with OHSAS 18001:2007 and plans to publish it in 2008. This updated version of OHSAS 18002:2000/2002 Occupational health and safety management systems—Guidelines for the implementation of OHSAS 18001” is intended to be used as additional guidance, not as an auditor‘s guide for OHSAS 18001:2007.
Implementation of OHSAS 18001:2007 includes the following:
1. Leadership commitment. This is the key to OHSMS success.
2. Establishing roles and responsibilities for OHSMS throughout the organization.
3. Planning, which includes risk assessment.
4. Developing procedures to communicate OHS information to employees and to other stakeholders and interested parties.
5. Develop documentation and data control systems.
6. Establish a system of operational control and plans/procedures for emergencies.
7. Leadership’s formal review of OHSMS to assure the goals and objectives set out in the planning and implementation phases are met.

OHSMS 18001:2007 is used as a guidance document in the development of OHSMS as well as a standard with which to certify or register an organization’s adherence to its requirements. BS OHSAS 18001:2007 is now aligned with ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management Systems to facilitate an integrated approach to SH&E management within organizations.

In your own personal work experience, how have OHSAS 18001 and 18002 impacted SH&E practices worldwide and SH&E management systems?

Seabrook: BSI originally developed OHSAS 18001:1999 to provide the business and registrar community with requirements for an auditable OHSMS process. Prior to OHSAS 18001:1999, each registrar developed their own OHSMS requirements, which were then used for third-party registration/certification. BSI brought together the registrar community to develop consistent OHSMS requirements, which business and the registrars could use.

Today, some consider OHSAS to be the “default global OHSMS standard.” Many countries and companies across industry sectors use OHSAS 18001 or their own national OHSMS standards (e.g., Korea and Japan) to third-party certify/register their OHSMS.

Until recently, OHSAS 18001 registration/certification activity has been seen mainly outside the U.S. The global business community’s focus on workplace safety and health is shifting, with increasing importance of corporate social responsibility and government regulation around transparency (business risk identification) for stakeholders. With this shift, many multinational companies (non-U.S. and some U.S.) are moving toward OHSAS 18001:2007 as a way to demonstrate and/or third-party verify their management system process and commitment to workplace safety and health. This has a follow-on effect for their supply chain. Recent concerns about product integrity and safety in the U.S. and Europe, as well as safe and healthy working conditions, have companies increasing their focus on supply chain management and requiring suppliers to verify their SH&E management processes. This trend is also increasing the number of companies using OHSAS 18001 as a framework for their OHSMS and for third-party certification and registration. This is being seen in the pre-bid process within the construction industry.

For companies that wish to continue their OHSAS 18001:1999 registration/certification, the deadline for implementing OHSAS 18801:2007 is June 2009. Contact your current registrar for specific requirements for this transition process.

How can SH&E professionals who currently incorporate the standard, “Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Management Systems” (ANSI Z10:2005), into their safety practices also make use of OHSAS 18001 and OHSAS 18002?

Seabrook: ANSI Z10:2005 is a very good management system standard, comparable to OHSAS 18001:2007. If an organization has implemented the ANSI Z10:2005 standard, it will have a robust process to effectively manage workplace risk. The main reason to move forward with OHSAS 18001:2007 is if an organization wants third-party certification/registration to that standard or more alignment/integration with the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard. The ANSI Z10 and OHSAS 18001 accomplish the same end.

If a company wishes to register/third-party certify against OHSAS 18001, the registrar will conduct a pre-assessment and indicate the areas of the existing management system, which do not meet OHSAS 18001 implementation requirements.

In addition to better alignment with ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001:2007 has also been expanded by incorporation of the term “interested parties.” Organizations must encourage participation and communication with a wider range of “interested parties.” This includes, but is not limited to, temporary workers, voluntary workers, contractors, visitors, employees, trespassers, suppliers (such as delivery drivers), neighbors and others, depending on the nature of their activities.

Are any revisions planned for OHSAS 18001 and OHSAS 18002 or will new standards be added to the OHSAS series?

Seabrook: Currently, there are no publicly announced plans to add new standards to the OHSAS series once the updated OHSAS 18002 is published. The OHSAS Project Group has been reviewing the need for auditor and auditing guidance and is waiting for the final revision of ISO 19011, which is expected to address OHSMS auditing. They are also looking to develop a document on OHSMS terminology.

How can safety and health management system standards such as OHSAS 18001 and [18002 help reduce injuries, accidents and risk? How do they ultimately affect companies’ return on investment?

Winterholer: Safety management systems are not new, especially to the chemical industry. OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) and EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) are both management systems legislated with the intention to have those companies with high-risk processes or chemicals implement systems to manage these risks. I have been involved from the beginning in both PSM and RMP and have become a strong advocate of these types of programs, having recognized through experience what they can do to help reduce facilities’ injury rates. Those facilities for which I have been responsible that were subject to either RMP, PSM or both have had no difficulty in achieving either ISO 14001 or OHSAS 18001.

A properly implemented program is intended to help a company manage its safety program. We are all familiar with companies that spend more time responding to injuries and incidents than preventing them in the first place. The purpose of an Occupational Safety and Health Management System (OSHMS) such as OHSAS 18001 is to provide guidance for companies to focus their efforts in identifying and correcting those unsafe situations, which are more apt to occur with a significant loss potential, before they occur.

The most important aspects of OHSAS 18001 are:

1. The employer must make a commitment that the safety and health of the worker is as important as any other aspect of the company and convey this to all managers and employees. This includes committing resources (time and money) to identify and correct risks found.

2. Identify and prioritize risks using sound risk analysis techniques. When properly executed, you concentrate your efforts and available resources on those risks that have greater potential and/or potential loss, thus getting more “bang for the buck.” After all, why spend effort on confined space entry and training if you have no confined spaces but many flammable solvents?

3. Involve all employees in the process. After all, who knows more about process and underlying problems than the people who are exposed to them everyday? More than once, employees have indicated that supervision was unaware of fixes that would have taken time and money to engineer.

4. Communicate. Keep employees apprised of progress made and actions taken. If a project cannot be initiated or completed for whatever reason, let the employees know and tell them what actions are being taken as an interim fix until resources can be obtained.

By concentrating efforts where they are most needed, the company reduces or even eliminates the worst risks that result in harm to employees and the resulting loss of their service and associated medical and compensation costs.

Have you encountered any challenges in working with OHSAS 18001 and 18002?

Winterholer: In my experiences with other companies, especially when involved in the NSF Demonstration Project, one of the biggest challenges I observed was convincing a company’s management that the purpose of implementing a management system was not to achieve some marketing advantage or to get the regulators off your tail. Many executives/owners/vice presidents only looked at these programs as marketing ploys; if they served no marketing advantage, there was no need to proceed. All too often it seemed that the only reason a company was interested in the ISO14001 or OHSA18001 certification was so they could hang up a sign or fly a flag to show they were ISO/OHSAS-certified. In reality, a well-run OHSMS program mimicking OHSAS 18001 can do much to improve the bottom line by reducing injuries, even if you do not pursue formal certification.

Another major challenge is working with auditors. Auditors come with their own experiences and their own interpretations of what an OHSMS should include. If you disagree with an auditor, do not be afraid to state your differences. I have not yet found an auditor who refused to listen to our interpretations.

Occasionally, incidents do slip by the risk management process or beat the odds. This raises questions as to the adequacy of your risk assessment process, but you must accept that a meteor could hit your building or that everyone overlooked the high-pressure hose line in Building A. Use these incidents as a tool for improvement, not to destroy what is in place.

How do you predict OHSAS 18001 and OHSAS 18002 will influence the development of new or other safety and health management system standards?

Seabrook: The ISO Technical Management Board’s results from its September 2007 survey of ISO member countries indicated that “it is unlikely that a globally relevant standard on OHSMS could be produced at this time and would be reviewed every few years.” It is in this void that OHSAS 18001:2007 will increasingly be recognized as the default global OHSMS standard and be embraced by the global business community. In addition, OHSAS 18001 continues to influence nationally developed standards development (e.g., Korea and the U.S.) as a reference and guide for an OHSMS.

Kathy A. Seabrook

Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CMIOSH (UK) has been involved in the development and implementation of management systems for over 25 years. A past member of the ANSI Z10 standards committee, Seabrook currently serves on the BSI OSHAS 18002 Project Group and is a Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (British). She works with companies to develop OHSMS with global application, conducts global SH&E management workshops and seminars and has contributed to the body of knowledge on global SH&E management systems in several books and publications.

She served two terms on ASSE’s Board of Directors, chaired a taskforce to identify ASSE’s Strategic international initiatives, was the first Chair and a founding member of ASSE’s UK Section and International Practice Specialty, is a member of ASSE’s national faculty and serves on the ASSE Business of Safety Committee.

Seabrook holds a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from James Madison University.

Bryant Winterholer

Bryant Winterholer, PE, CSP has 38 years of experience in the SH&E profession and has worked in the heavy machine, foundry, shipbuilding and chemical industries.

His involvement in environmental management systems (EMS) began with participation in NSF’s EMS project from 1993 to 1996. He then served as ASSE’s representative to the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO/TC207, the U.S. body responsible for working on the ISO14000 standards

For the past 22 years, Winterholer has worked as an SH&E manager for a coatings and adhesives company. He is responsible for four adhesive facilities located in New York and Illinois, all of which are ISO 9000-, ISO 14001- and OHSAS 18001-certified.
He holds a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering from the University of New Haven and has completed graduate courses in civil engineering (environmental). He is also a Professional Member of ASSE and a member of ASSE’s Environmental and International Practice Specialties.