Oct 26, 2017

Defining OHSAS 18001 programs and objectives

If an OHSAS 18001 system is to succeed, the health and safety objectives that are set, and the programs designed to meet those objectives, are critical. If you get this wrong, not only will your system have a high probability of failing, but you could also put your employees’ wellbeing at risk. None of the other commonly implemented standards such as environmental and quality management systems have such a direct impact on the lives of people. It is therefore critical that you spend the required time to really think through the objectives and programs. When doing this, you should consult with and consider all stakeholders and make sure that the end result will be reduced risk for the people working for you.

Given how critical these aspects are, let’s have a look what to consider when you define and plan them.


When setting objectives of any kind, a methodology commonly used is “S.M.A.R.T” objectives. This stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. There are many variations of this acronym, but the basic principle stays the same. When setting objectives for OHSAS 18001, these should obviously be consistent with your policy. The policy will normally very specifically state that the goal is to reduce or remove the risk of any incident or accident that may result in ill health or injury to employees. The exact wording of the policy does not matter, as the intention will be the same.

When defining objectives, there are however a few other things that we need to consider.

  • Stakeholders: All stakeholders, be they internal or external, should be considered. Stakeholders may include shareholders, employees, pressure groups, local residents, etc.
  • Legal obligations: These are critically important to an OHSAS system, so make very sure that you record and monitor all applicable legislation and the updates of these.
  • Technological, business, financial and operational requirements: When looking at these requirements, they will be unique and different for any company. You need to identify what the specific needs, infrastructures, and requirements for your company are, and then design your objectives and programs accordingly.

Once you have obtained the knowledge mentioned above, you’ll be ready to define your objectives. Although these will be different for each organization, a few examples may help you clarify how best to approach your own unique requirements.

  • Yearly average of number of employee days absent
  • Number of man hours worked since last incident
  • Number of internal and external non-conformances
  • Number of OHSAS risk assessments done
  • Results of employee OHSAS satisfaction surveys

The list above contains a mixture of items that are either proactive or reactive. While some simply measure performance and compares this to the intended objective, others are proactive in the sense that they tend to encourage more risk assessments or audits. The mix of types of objectives will assist you in measuring the results effectively, but also cater for the standard’s critical requirement of continual improvement.

Let’s now have a look at what we need to consider when we design the programs that will help us achieve the objectives.


The OHSAS 18001 standard is pretty straight forward when it comes to advise on programs and lists only a few components they should contain.

  • The defined programs should specify means, methods, and time frames
  • Specific people at relevant levels of the organization should be made responsible for the execution of the program
  • Programs must be able to be reviewed and adjusted, and should ensure that the objectives are achieved

This basically means that like with any other project, you should define the responsibility, method and timeline that will be used to create and deliver the programs that will be able to deliver the outcome as stated in the objectives. Although the programs can in fact be very simple, they must ultimately deliver the outcome you’re looking for. It is critical that you include methods that enable you to monitor, review and change the program to ensure that you stay on track and can ultimately achieve the objective.

With an OHSAS system, you don’t often get a second chance as is the case with other ISO management systems. If your programs fail, this could have a negative effect on employee health. That’s why it’s critical that you built proactive elements into your programs.

ISO 9001 quality management systems (QMS) are implemented using MyEasyISO software in Damascus (Syria), while ISO 14001 & OHSAS 18001 Health Safety Management Systems (HSE) are implemented with MyEasyISO in Luang Prabang (Laos).

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