Do you need an occupational health and safety management system? That’s a trick question. You already have an OHSMS. It may be an informal one focused on compliance, or one that keeps reacting to the latest crisis, but everyone has an OHSMS. Good or bad, a management system is simply the way an organization does things, including planning, setting goals, operating, and keeping track of progress. So, the key question is not whether you have one, but whether your OHSMS is working as well as it could.

That question leads to a few others:
  • Is your organization repeating the same mistakes and relearning the same lessons?
  • Do you spend too much of your time reacting to problems?
  • Is your organization focused more on compliance than prevention?
  • Are people in your organization resisting health and safety initiatives instead of engaging with them?
  • Do you define health and safety merely as the absence of injuries and illnesses?
Improving your OHSMS may help your organization be more successful, not just in health and safety, but in other aspects of operational performance. A formal OHSMS can provide a consistent framework for managing hazards, risks, and improvement opportunities. It is an organized approach to pulling the health and safety program pieces into an organization’s normal business operations. And it is a tool for continuous improvement, so you don’t have to learn the same lessons over and over.
There are several formal health and safety management systems, but no single system is suited for all organizations. In 2018, the International Organization for Standardization released ISO 45001, the world’s first global standard for OHSMS. Later this year, the American National Standards Institute and the American Society of Safety Professionals will publish ANSI/ASSP Z10, the U.S. national standard for OHSMS. This article focuses on the benefits of conformance to Z10 and explains its relationship to ISO 45001.
ISO 45001, finalized in 2018, replaces a previous standard, OHSAS 18001, which was developed by auditors as a health and safety complement to quality and environmental standards (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001). ISO 45001 is a conformance standard, intended for use with third-party certification. It is gaining rapid traction, particularly among companies that live in the conformance environment, such as those that are part of supply chains. Third-party certification provides a degree of assurance to customers who want to be sure they are doing business with reputable companies.  ANSI/ASSP Z10, originally approved in 2005 with AIHA as secretariat, is now on its third revision, due in mid-2019. The upcoming revision is structured to be compatible with ISO 45001 to help users achieve conformance with both standards. However, North American users will find ANSI/ASSP Z10 to be easier to understand and implement because some of the terms and concepts in ISO 45001 do not translate easily across countries. A separate Implementation Guidance Manual will be published with the standard that users of both ANSI/ASSP Z10 and ISO 45001 will find useful. A Small and Medium Enterprise Implementation Guide will also be published to help smaller organizations adopt the basic principles, if not all the details, of the standard.
RESOURCES OSHA: OSHA Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines, November 2015 Draft for Public Comment (
, November 2015). OSHA:
Voluntary Protection Programs
The Synergist
: “
The Long Road to ISO 45001: Key Elements of the First Global Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Standard
” (July 2018).

OSHA developed non-mandatory Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines in 1989 and published a proposed revision in 2015. The guidelines include basic elements of a management system with a heavy focus on hazard identification and control. OSHA also has its Voluntary Protection Program, which is a management system. VPP is intended to recognize organizations that already meet strict criteria for success. In other words, VPP is for “saints,” not for “sinners.” In contrast, any organization can adopt ISO 45001, ANSI/ASSP Z10, or the OSHA Program Management Guidelines. 
The 2019 version of the ANSI/ASSP Z10 standard includes ten sections:
  1. Scope
  2. References
  3. Terms and Definitions
  4. Context of the Organization
  5. Leadership and Participation
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance Evaluation
  10. Improvement

The goal of this structure, which parallels the ten- section format of ISO 45001, is to make certification to 45001 easier for users of Z10 to achieve. Sections 5 through 10 of both standards cover basic elements and requirements. Traditional health and safety programs concentrate most of their energy and activity on the requirements in section 8 (Operation). That is where the heavy lifting of eliminating hazards, reducing risks, and ensuring regulatory compliance is typically done. The key to success for health and safety management systems is to strengthen elements covered in other sections, which guide and reinforce improvements in operation and help integrate health and safety with other business processes. 
Sections 1-4.
Scope, definitions, and context may sound like things you can skip over, but these sections include important information. The Z10 revision drops the word “employee” in favor of “worker” to reflect changes in work force arrangements and to be consistent with ISO 45001. Section 4 on strategic considerations and context helps the user understand the needs and expectations of the organization, its workers, and other interested parties, including regulatory agencies. This knowledge is vital for determining what the organization intends to cover in the OHSMS. For example, will fire prevention, fleet safety, product stewardship, or sustainability issues be included in the OHSMS?
Section 5:
Leadership and Participation.
This section is the foundation of success for the entire OHSMS. To function well, an organization needs committed leaders, effective policies, and clearly assigned roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, and authorities. Worker participation is crucial, as is feedback from the other elements of the management system. An effective flow of information is necessary for leaders to know what is working and what needs to be changed.
Section 6:
Improving safety requires planning and goal setting. An effective OHSMS depends on an assessment of risks and opportunities for improvement. These must be translated into goals and objectives that are established and monitored throughout the organization and integrated into business practices. Goals are not simply based on improving regulatory compliance or reducing injury numbers. Instead, goals are strategic, focused on reducing risks and engaging all parts of the organization in the effort to improve health and safety.
Section 7: Support.
Support includes providing sufficient resources, making sure employees and managers are competent, and promoting awareness of hazards and controls, and all of this depends on effective communication and training. Without thoughtful attention to support, the other elements of the OHSMS will flounder. Other aspects of support are documentation of key processes and control of documented information. 
Section 8: Implementation and Operations.
This section covers the areas where the heavy lifting of health and safety programs is performed, including regulatory compliance, risk identification, risk assessment, application of the hierarchy of controls, management of change, contractor safety, occupational health, and emergency preparedness. These aspects are the backbone of safety and health, but unless they are surrounded by the other elements of the OHSMS, they will not lead to continuous and lasting improvement.
Section 9: Evaluation and Corrective Action.
Monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation are important tools to gauge compliance and progress. This includes meaningful metrics and effective audit processes. A critical element that leads to improvement is the incorporation of employees’ feedback into the planning process.
Section 10: Management Review.
Good leadership is key to the success of health and safety efforts, but without information, leaders can’t be effective. The organization must have a process for top management to review the OHSMS at least annually and to recommend improvements. Other inputs to this process may occur more often, in some cases even daily, including progress in risk reduction, identification of priorities, progress toward objectives, and knowledge gained from feedback. Management needs this information to adjust policy and make necessary changes to priorities and resources.
Several of the helpful annexes in the previous edition of Z10 are being updated and will be included in a separate Guidance and Implementation Manual with the new version of the standard. Much new content is being added to help organizations understand and put into practice the elements of ANSI/ASSP Z10. The manual is also expected to be of great help to users of ISO 45001, which has similar requirements but lacks guidance documents or examples to help with implementation.  More than a how-to guide, the manual contains cutting-edge thinking on a variety of health and safety topics:
  • The manual promotes a new view of health and safety as active, not passive. This concept expands beyond the historical view of safety as merely the absence of injury or freedom from unacceptable risk. Organizations should see health and safety not as outcomes to be achieved but as dynamic processes to be managed, resulting or emerging from the interactions of the management system’s components. For example, building error-tolerant systems and learning from work as performed are key elements of health and safety.
  • The guidance manual has a chapter on integrating occupational health—including medical issues, industrial hygiene, and total worker health—into the OHSMS.
  • A separate chapter discusses prevention of fatal and serious injuries and illnesses, or FSII. Companies with effective safety programs as measured by most traditional indicators may still experience FSII. Because these events are typically infrequent, their causes and precursors may sometimes be overlooked. The chapter explains how FSII prevention activities require a greater focus on a set of risk-based tools and techniques that need to be integrated into an effective OHSMS.
  • The metrics and measurement chapter provides helpful information on leading and lagging indicators. Lagging indicators, including many of the familiar injury and illness statistics, are measures of outcome, while leading indicators can be predictive or can drive activities that lead to better performance. The chapter explains how metrics can be used to manage and improve health and safety, and not merely to monitor outcomes. 

Another document in the ANSI/ASSP Z10 series is a start-up guide targeted to small- and medium-sized enterprises, but which may be useful for larger companies as well. The guide explains how the principles of Z10 can be applied to any organization. Users of the guide may not check off every conformance box for third-party certification, but they will be able to take advantage of health and safety improvements that come from using an effective OHSMS.
Third-party certification is a primary focus of ISO 45001, and is also available for users of ANSI/ASSP Z10. The new version of Z10 will be aligned with and enable users to become certified to ISO 45001. Why bother with Z10 at all, then? Why not simply certify to ISO 45001? For one thing, the provisions of Z10 are easier to interpret in the social and regulatory context of the U.S. For another, the ISO standard is the result of negotiations between many countries with different levels of health and safety advancement. The ANSI/ASSP Z10 standard and its implementation guide reflect newer advances in health and safety thinking and provide opportunities for improvement beyond what can be realized through conformance with ISO 45001. 
If the prospect of implementing a formal OHSMS seems overwhelming, it need not be. Although third-party certification requires commitment at a high level and concerted efforts throughout the organization, implementation of ANSI/ASSP Z10 doesn’t have to involve third-party certification. Improvement in any element of the system can lead to improvement in other elements. For example, improving the incident investigation process can identify underlying risks that lead to improvements in prevention planning. Improving metrics can lead to better planning and goal setting. Remember, you already have a management system. Many organizations already have strong operational elements in place as part of traditional health and safety compliance and prevention programs. Using a formal OHSMS can help focus on other elements that help integrate health and safety efforts with other organizational operations and lead to continuous improvement.  
is a consulting industrial hygienist for Cardno ChemRisk and a member of the ANSI/ASSP Z10 committee.
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Improving your OHSMS may help your organization be more successful, not just in health and safety, but in other aspects of operational performance.
Looking Forward to the New American Standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems  

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