Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Is an International OHS Management System Standard Coming?

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Is an International OHS Management System Standard Coming?

Article excerpt

AIHA's president says that, when it comes to such a standard, the handwriting is on the wall.

I am frequently asked: "Will there be an international OHS management system standard?" People from all around the world are waiting with great anticipation for an integrated occupational hygiene, safety and environmental management system (OHS&E MS) standard! In my view, the compelling case for an integrated OHS&E MS, integral to the quality system of an organization, has been made in many books, papers and presentations and in professional practice on a worldwide scale. The proof of this idea is no longer "new" and the idea no longer "radical." Those who believe that this approach is radical might look to evaluate such policies and practices, just as "benchmark" companies have done.

This integrated system works because it has been, is and will be efficient and effective. Even if we ignore the compelling ethical arguments in favor of using all available effective tools in our arsenal to protect workers domestically and globally, there is ample evidence of why clear-seeing organizations will implement such an approach -- it represents good business.

ISO 14001, as a pure environmental management system without occupational hygiene and safety aspects integral to its philosophy and practice, simply is illogical. Even in past national and international meetings during which "international ISO standard for OHS was turned down by the overwhelming consensus of representatives from industry, labor and various governments from both developed and developing countries," this was already a moot point. During the time of this debate, an article was published in Occupational Hazards titled "IBM spells SAFETY I-S-O." Indeed, a representative of one of the largest companies in the world stood up in one of these debates and said: "Whom do we think we are kidding? We are either already doing this [integrated OHS&E MS] or are planning to do it because it makes sense!"

Let us hope that practitioners and policymakers alike will embrace this idea. There are many such efforts in progress. The British Standards Institute (BSI) has its BS 8800 and OHSAS 18001 products, which are widely used around the world by Japanese companies. The American Industrial Hygiene Association has its ISO 9001-based OHS MS and its new ANSIZ-10 Committee for Occupational Health and Safety Systems. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has its landmark 1999 report surveying and analyzing the world's OHS management system standards. …

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