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Proactive vs Reactive: The Key Differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001

May 7th, 2018

Proactive vs Reactive: The Key Differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001

The release of the ISO 45001 Standard is arguably the most significant event for EHS managers in a generation. This new standard, which will replace OHSAS 18001, follows the approach of other management systems such as ISO 14001 and ISO 90001 and has an increased emphasis on management commitment, worker involvement, and risk control.

Adoption of the standard over the next three years will, no doubt, lead to many questions as organizations evaluate their current health and safety processes. Understanding the key differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001 is an important first step. Below is an overview of ISO 45001 and a list of the key similarities and differences in the two standards.

What is ISO 45001?

  • ISO 45001 was published on March 12,2018 and is the new international standard for occupational health and safety (OH&S) management

  • ISO 45001 specifies requirements for an occupational health and safety (OH&S) management system and gives guidance for its use to enable organizations to provide safe and healthy workplaces by preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities and by proactively improving OH&S performance

  • ISO 45001 is applicable to any organization worldwide regardless of its size, type, or nature

  • ISO 45001 replaces OHSAS 18001, the world’s former reference for OH&S management (organizations currently certified under OHSAS 18001 will have until March 12,2021to migrate to ISO 45001)

How is ISO 45001 similar to OHSAS 18001?

  • Intent: The overall intent to create a framework for managing the prevention of employee injuries, illnesses, and fatalities is the same for both standards

  • Plan-Do-Check-Act: The PDCA cycle remains the fundamental operating principle in both standards

  • Other Similarities: Many of the requirements covered in OHSAS 18001, although consolidated, relocated, or expanded on, are found in ISO 45001, including policy requirements; identification of legal and other requirements; improvement objectives; awareness requirements; competency requirements; resources needed to support the system; and requirements for monitoring, measuring, and analyzing OH&S performance and improvement

What are some of the main differences between ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001?

  • Structure: The structure of ISO 45001 is based on Annex SL, which is the framework used in other ISO management system standards, making implementation easier and more efficient

  • Management Commitment: ISO 45001 requires the incorporation of health and safety into the overall management system of the organization, requiring management to take a stronger leadership role in OH&S

  • Worker Involvement: ISO 45001 requires employee training and education to identify risks and help create a successful safety program, allowing broader employee participation

  • Risk v. Hazard: ISO 45001 follows a preventative process, requiring hazard risks to be evaluated and remedied before they cause accidents and injuries, unlike OHSAS 18001, which focused only on hazard control

As Dakota Software’s clients know, our ProActivity Suite™ of products is designed around the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology. As the name implies, ProActivity embraces a forward-looking approach to EHS performance. It does this through the use of an integrated regulatory library for EHS compliance planning and Business Intelligence tools for trend analysis of incidents and action items.


Dakota’s Management Systems modules provide a framework for planning and managing tasks to implement Management Systems on an ongoing basis. They contain the full text of widely-accepted consensus standards and checklist questions for assessing performance. Dakota currently offers ISO 14001, Responsible Care Management System (RCMS), Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) and OHSAS 18001. ISO 45001 is currently under development and will be released soon.

Contact us if you’d like to learn how ProActivity can help you implement a proactive, risk-based approach to EHS management.

Ann Rippe

Ann Rippe

Manager of Regulatory Services

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