What is the difference between OHSAS 18001 and AS/NZS 4801?

Worker health and safety is a priority for any business, which is why many Australian companies choose to enrol their staff in training courses for the AS/NZS 4801 ‘Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems’ standard. The goal of this standard is to guide a company towards certification and to assist in eliminating work-related injuries. It also defines the processes for reporting and evaluating hazards.

As companies become more globalised, there is an increased need to comply with international standards. Outside of Australia and New Zealand, many organisations follow the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) 18001 ‘Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems’ standard. TBoth the AS/NZS 4801 and OHSAS 18001 standards aim to promote safer working conditions. So which certification should you choose? Which certification is right for your workers? The following information addresses the key differences between 4801 and 18001.

What is AS/NZS 4801?

The AS/NZS 4801 certification assists businesses in Australia to comply with the OSH/WHS laws. This standard is considered the benchmark for assessing work health and safety within a risk management system. The AS/NZS 4801 is recommended for a wide variety of industries, including:

  • Transport;
  • Construction;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Mining;
  • Oil and Gas;
  • Civil/Construction;
  • Healthcare;
  • Aviation;
  • Professional Services.

The AS/NZS 4801 standard is not limited to the above industries and is intended for use by all organisations to help encourage an overarching culture of safety. The standard assists in establishing an effective occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS).

It’s recommended for organisations that want to develop additional ‘protection’ outside of 4801, to also implement a quality management system (ISO 19001). The standard provides a framework for the identification and control of risks and further protects both themselves and their employees from accidents and injuries.

Establishing an OHSMS also makes it easier for organisations to comply with the relevant OHS/WHS legislation in Australia. It’s intended for any business that has no current measures in place. When both systems are coupled together, the result is a positive impact on worker safety.

Safe Work Australia estimates that there were 182 worker fatalities in 2016. The deaths equate to a fatality rate of 1.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. This was the lowest rate since detailed reporting began in 2003.

What Is OHSAS 18001?

With OHSAS 18001, workers are instructed on how to recognise potential hazards and prevent injury or ill health. It is a British Standard for OHSMS’s which has also seen it become the preferred certification system in North America. However, i that standard has been replaced in early 2019 by ISO 45001 ‘Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems’.

Similarly to the 4801 certification, the OHSAS 18001 certification was created to help provide a framework for establishing safety management systems. These systems are known to help workers to both identify and control the risks. With the certification, workers learn the elements needed for an effective OHSMS.

What Is the Difference Between AS/NZS 4801 and OHSAS 18001?

The AS/NZS 4801:2001 and OHSAS standards share many features. They are both created to help businesses create or improve the systems needed to analyse and reduce health and safety risks. However, there are also a few key differences.

The OHSAS 18001 occupational health and safety management system offers clearer guidelines for hazard evaluation, incident investigationand corrective actions. These areas are still addressed in the AS/NZS certification. However, the Australian and New Zealand standard focuses more on the processes for reporting and evaluating the risk management process.

The OHSAS 18001 certificate also places greater importance on the legal requirements for maintaining worker safety. These requirements are not directly addressed through the AS/NZS as it’s mostly intended as a framework for setting up best-practice processes and procedures. The other key difference is the scope that is defined in each standard.

The AS/NZS management system certification is used by businesses in Australia and New Zealand and intended to comply with the WHS laws. The certification to OHSAS is based on a British standard. It’s used by organisations across the globe.

What Are the Benefits of AS/NZS 4801 and OHSAS 18001?

There are benefits to both certifications. With both standards, workers learn how to establish an OHSMS, which offers the following advantages:

    • A safer work environment;
    • Greater confidence from stakeholders;
    • Improved worker morale;
    • Reduced costs from accidents; and
    • Less downtime due to accidents.

Establishing an OHSMS following one of these standards also helps organisations determine what WHS training is needed. Workers may need to complete various training courses, including mandatory and optional training, to comply with OSH/WHS laws. The OHSMS further assists by highlighting which areas require training.

In the end, either certification is beneficial to Australian businesses. If you operate internationally and work with organisations in other countries, following the international standard makes sense. For domestic operations, the AS/NZS 4801 is still an effective option.

Keep in mind that the new ISO 45001 has now been released and will phase-out the OHSAS 18001 2007 standard by mid-2021. It includes steps for simplifying the integration of these standards with other management system standards, such as ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. However, the AS/NZS remains an acceptable option for Australian businesses.

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