Differences between AS 4801 and AS 45001 OHS Management Standards

A management system is a systematic framework of documentation, systems and processes designed to help an organisation achieve its objectives. In Occupational Health and Safety (‘OHS’), management systems can be designed to comply with the minimum legal OHS requirements, or recognised standards such as AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) (‘AS 4801’) and AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) (‘AS 45001’). The recognised standards set requirements that go beyond the minimum legal requirements for OHS management.

The requirement to develop and implement a management system complying to either standard is not a legal requirement and is simply a voluntary undertaking. Developing and implementing a management system complying to either standard can provide significant benefits for organisations. These benefits may include, prevention of work related harm, improvement in the safety culture, or increasing and strengthening of business relationships. This article provides an overview of how the two standards differ and how organisations should determine the appropriate standard for their business.

Top Management

The major difference between AS 4801 and AS 45001 is that the latter requires increased responsibility from top management, to demonstrate leadership and commitment to OHS management. In AS 4801, the top management’s commitment to OHS is largely demonstrated through an executed OHS policy.[1] In AS 45001, top management are expressly required to demonstrate their commitment to OHS through a number of responsibilities, which include:[2]

  • Taking overall responsibility and accountability for the prevention of work related harm
  • Ensuring the OHS management system is integrated into the business operations
  • Ensuring there are resources available for the OHS management system
  • Communicating the importance of effective OHS management
  • Ensuring the OHS management system achieves its purpose
  • Directing and supporting persons to support the OHS management system
  • Ensuring and promoting continual improvement
  • Developing, leading and promoting a safety culture
  • Protecting workers from reprisals when reporting incidents and hazards

AS 45001 expressly requires top management to be accountable for the functioning of the OHS management system.[3] There is also greater involvement required of top management in the management of OHS within the organisation. These requirements do not exist in AS 4801, which may allow top management to delegate the overall responsibility for OHS management to other persons in the organisation.

The responsibilities for top management under AS 45001 are much greater compared to AS 4801, which specifies minimal responsibilities for top management. This is a significant difference which should theoretically provide greater OHS performance under AS 45001. Top management’s commitment and leadership to OHS management is critical in positively leading the OHS performance and culture in organisations.

OHS Policy

The OHS policy requirements differ between the two standards. AS 45001 requires employers to expressly provide additional commitments in the OHS policy compared to AS4801, which include:[4]

  • To provide a safe and health working conditions for the prevention of work-related injury.
  • To eliminate hazards and reduce OHS risks
  • To consultation and participation of workers

These additional commitments are aligned to the duties of employers under OHS law.

Consultation and Participation

AS 45001 requires greater consultation and participation of workers in OHS management. It utilises a new term of, ‘non-managerial workers’, which are defined as employees who are not involved in the management of the organisation. Under AS 4801, this distinction is not made and consultation requirements apply to employees generally. Consultation requirements under AS 4801 are lesser and are largely aligned with the minimum legal requirements.[5]

The additional consultation requirements under AS 45001 require organisations to consult with non-managerial workers on the following:[6]

  • Establishing the OHS policy
  • Assigning organisational roles, responsibilities and authorities
  • Determining how to fulfill legal and other requirements
  • Establishing OHS objectives and plans to achieve them
  • Determining controls for outsourcing, procurement and contractors
  • Determining monitoring and measurement requirements
  • Planning, establishing, implementing and maintaining an audit program
  • Ensuring continual improvement

In addition to increased consultation, AS 45001 requires increased participation of non-managerial workers in the following:[7]

  • Determining training and competency requirements
  • Determining communication requirements
  • Investigating incidents and nonconformities and determining corrective actions

The increased consultation requirements and participation of non-managerial workers in OHS management is a positive step towards effective OHS management. This should foster a positive safety culture by increasing the transparency between management and the workforce to reduce barriers.

Hazard Identification

AS 45001 requires organisations to establish and implement more extensive processes in relation to hazard identification than AS 4801. Under AS 45001, the hazard identification processes are required to consider hazards arising from:[8]

  • Social factors, leadership, and culture
  • Routine and non-routine activities
  • Potential emergency situations
  • People with access to the workplace (workers, contractors, visitors, others)
  • People in the vicinity of the workplace who can be affected by the activities
  • People at a location not under the direct control of organisations
  • Situations occurring in the vicinity of the workplace
  • Situations not controlled by the workplace occurring in the vicinity of the workplace
  • Actual or proposed changes in organization, operations, processes, activities and within the OHS management system
  • Changes in knowledge of and information about hazards

The above requirements are not specified by AS 4801.[9]

Assessment

The requirement for assessment of OHS risks and hazards are similar between the two standards. However, AS 45001 requires organisations to also assess the OHS opportunities to enhance the OHS performance. This includes the following opportunities:[10]

  • To adapt work, work organisation and work environment to workers
  • Opportunities to eliminate hazards and reduce OHS risks
  • Other opportunities for improving the OHS management system.

The above requirement is not prescribed by AS 4801 and risk assessment only applies to hazards and risks of activities, products and services of an organisation.[11]

Legal and other Requirements

AS 45001 imposes two additional requirements for legal and other requirements for organisations, compared to AS 4801. Organisations are required to establish and implement processes that determine how legal and other requirements apply to the organisation and what needs to be communicated.[12] Organisations are also required to take these requirements into account when establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the OHS management system.[13]

AS 45001 also expressly specifies legal and other requirements apply to hazards, OHS risks, and the OHS management of an organisation. Whereas AS 4801 utilises more broad terminology.[14]

OHS Objectives

AS 45001 imposes extra requirements for OHS objectives compared to AS 4801. These additional requirements require OHS objectives to:[15]

  • Be measurable (where practicable) or capable of performance evaluation
  • Take into account results of opportunities
  • Take into account results of consultation with workers
  • Be monitored and updated

Ensuring there are clearly defined objectives is essential to evaluating the OHS performance of an organisation. AS 45001 should improve the OHS performance of an organisation by the development of objectives of a higher standard. AS 45001 provides more scope for organisations to focus on lead indicators and to place less focus on lag indicators, such as the number of lost time injuries or medically treated injuries. The OHS objective requirements under AS 4801 are lesser compared to AS 45001.[16]

OHS Plans

AS 45001 imposes additional requirements to be included for OHS plans compared to AS 4801. This includes the following additional requirements:[17]

  • Defining precisely what will be done
  • Determining the resources required
  • Determining how the results will be evaluated and monitored
  • Determining how the actions in the OHS plans will be integrated into the organisation’s processes

These requirements are not specified for OHS plans under AS 4801.[18]

Communication

AS 45001 imposes additional requirements for processes in relation to OHS communication, compared to AS 4801. AS 45001 requires the following additional requirements:[19]

  • Determining what, when, how and with whom to communicate
  • To take into account diversity aspects (gender, language, culture, literacy, disability) when considering the communication needs
  • To take into account legal and other requirements
  • Internal communication requirements
  • External communication requirements

AS 45001 also requires organisations to respond to relevant communications on its OHS management system.[20] The communication requirements under AS 4801 are minimal compared to AS 45001.[21]

Management of Change

AS 45001 requires organisations to establish processes for the implementation and control of planned temporary and permanent changes that could impact OHS performance.[22] The requirements in relation to the management of change are minimal in AS 4801.  AS 45001 requires organisations to establish processes in relation to: [23]

  • New products, services and processes or changes to existing products, services and processes
  • Changes to legal requirements and other requirements
  • Changes in knowledge or information about hazards and OHS risks
  • Developments in knowledge and technology

Organisations are also required to review the consequences of unintended changes and to take action to control any adverse effects.[24]

Procurement

AS 45001 imposes extensive requirements in relation to procurement compared to AS 4801. AS 45001 requires processes to be established and implemented to control the purchase of goods and services to ensure compliance to the OHS management system.[25] AS 45001 requires the following requirements for contractors, to control the risks arising from:[26]

  • The contractor’s activities and operations that can impact the organisation
  • The organisation’s activities and operations that can impact the contractor
  • The contractor’s activities and operations that can impact other interested parties

AS 45001 also imposes requirements for the control of risks arising from outsourcing. The outsourced processes and functions are required to be controlled and consistent with the legal requirements and the OHS management system.[27]

AS 4801 imposes minimal requirements in relation to the control of risks from procurement and outsourcing.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Both standards prescribe requirements for emergency preparedness and response. However, the requirements under AS 45001 are more extensive compared to AS 4801. AS 45001 imposes the following additional requirements:[28]

  • Communicating and providing relevant information to all workers on their duties and responsibilities in emergencies
  • Communicating relevant information to contractors, visitors, emergency response services, government authorities and local community
  • Taking into account the needs and capabilities of all interested parties and ensuring their involvement in the development of the planned response

The requirements under AS 4801 for emergency preparedness and response are minimal compared to AS 45001.[29]

Monitoring, Measurement and Evaluation

AS 45001 imposes extensive requirements in relation to monitoring and measurement compared to AS 4801. AS 45001 requires processes in relation to monitoring and measurement to include the following requirements:[30]

  • Determination of what needs to be monitored and measured
  • The methods for monitoring, measurement, analysis and performance evaluation
  • Criteria against which the performance will be evaluated
  • When the monitoring and measuring will be performed
  • When the results from monitoring and measurement will be analysed ,evaluated and communicated

AS 45001 also imposes additional requirements for evaluating compliance with legal and other requirements. This includes determining the frequency and method for the evaluation of compliance.[31] These requirements are not required by AS 4801.[32]

Management Review

Both standards require the review of the OHS management system by top management. AS 45001 specifies extensive criteria that is required to be included in the management review. This includes:[33]

  • Status of actions from previous reviews
  • Changes in internal and external issues in relation to the OHS management system
  • Extent to which the OHS policy and objectives have been met
  • Information on OHS performance
  • Adequacy of resources for maintaining OHS management system
  • Relevant communications with interested parties
  • Opportunities for continual improvement

The criteria for management reviews under AS 4801 is limited and broad compared to AS 45001. AS 45001 further requires top management to communicate the findings of management reviews to workers and their representatives.[34] These requirements are not specified in AS 4801.[35]

Incident Investigation and Corrective Actions

AS 45001 imposes additional requirements in relation to processes for incidents and nonconformities.[36] Nonconformities is a new term utilised by AS 45001, which is defined as a nonfulfillment to a requirement.[37]

The major difference in this area is, AS 45001 requires greater involvement of workers in investigating incidents and nonconformities compared to AS 4801. AS 45001 requires the participation of workers and other interested parties for the evaluation of corrective actions by:[38]

  • Investigating incidents or reviewing nonconformity
  • Determining the cause(s) of the incident or nonconformity
  • Determining if similar incidents have occurred, if nonconformities exist or if they could potentially occur

AS 45001 also imposes additional requirements when an incident or nonconformity occurs, and requires organisations to conduct the specified actions, which include:[39]

  • Review existing risk assessments
  • Assess OHS risks that relate to new or changed hazards
  • Review the effectiveness of any action taken
  • Make changes to the OHS management system

AS 45001 further requires information relating to incidents and nonconformities to be documented and communicated to workers and their representatives. This includes the following information:[40]

  • Nature of the incident or nonconformity and any action taken
  • Results of any action and corrective action including their effectiveness.

The above requirements are not required by AS 4801 and the criteria for processes in relation to this area is limited.[41]

Continual Improvement

AS 45001 imposes requirements for continual improvement of the OHS management system by:[42]

  • Enhancing OHS performance
  • Promoting a culture that supports an OHS management system
  • Promoting the participation of workers in implementing actions for continual improvement
  • Communicating the relevant results for continual improvement to workers and their representatives
  • Maintaining and retaining documented information as evidence of continual improvement

The above requirements are not specified by AS 4801.

Conclusion

AS 4801 and AS 45001 are significantly different standards for OHS management. AS 45001 is a higher standard for OHS management compared to AS 4801 and prescribes comprehensive requirements for compliance. These requirements include, additional responsibilities for top management, increased consultation and participation of non-managerial workers and additional requirements for other management system elements  as discussed above.

Organisations should carefully consider the standard that is appropriate for their organisation with consideration to their resources, size of their organisation and nature of their processes.

Organisations should also assess whether they have the capabilities and organisational maturity to actually comply with the additional requirements imposed by AS 45001. As there may be some organisations who are not ready to embrace the increased requirements of consultation and participation of non-managerial workers in their OHS management.

AS 45001 may also not be suitable for small businesses who may have limited resources. The additional burden of requirements imposed by AS 45001 may detract the resources on risk management, which could severely jeopardise OHS management.

Risk management is the foundation of OHS, and organisations should ensure they prioritise risk management and have sufficient resources to ensure all significant risks are identified, assessed and controlled.

Some organisations with limited resources, may even be better suited to implementing a custom designed OHS management system that is designed to ensure compliance with their legal requirements rather than a recognised standard.

The effectiveness of an OHS management system will ultimately depend on how well the OHS management system is implemented, integrated with the organisation’s operations and complied with by the organisation. OHS management systems which are poorly implemented or integrated within the organisation’s operations, provide minimal benefits to effective OHS management, other than the documentary assurance of a system. This may be enough to achieve certification and demonstrate to the world, that the organisation has an OHS management system in place. However, any tangible benefits to effective OHS management, such as promoting a positive safety culture, or reduction in incidents, will be limited.

Contrast this with an organisation that has implemented and integrated a custom designed management system into their operations that is aimed at compliance with the legal requirements. This organisation would likely receive greater benefits to OHS management than the organisation which has a AS 45001 accredited management system, that is barely implemented outside of their office.

Both AS 4801 and AS 45001 can provide significant benefits to the management of OHS, the challenge for organisations is, whether they can successfully implement the system into their operations and actually comply with their requirements.

 


[1] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.2.

[2] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 5.1.

[3] ibid clause 5.3.

[4] ibid clause 5.2.

[5] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.4.3.1.

[6] ibid clause 5.4.

[7] ibid clause 5.4.

[8] ibid clause 6.1.2.

[9] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.4.6.

[10] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 6.1.2.3

[11] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.3.1.

[12] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 6.1.3

[13] ibid clause 6.1.3

[14] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.3.2.

[15] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 6.2.1.

[16] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.3.3.

[17] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 6.2.2.

[18] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.3.4.

[19] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 7.4.1.

[20] ibid clause 7.4.1.

[21] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.4.3.2.

[22] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 8.1.3.

[23] ibid clause 8.1.3.

[24] ibid clause 8.1.3.

[25] ibid clause 8.1.4.

[26] ibid clause 8.1.4.2

[27] ibid clause 8.1.4.3

[28] ibid clause 8.2.

[29] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.4.7.

[30] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 9.1.1.

[31] ibid clause 9.1.2.

[32] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.5.1.

[33] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 9.3.

[34] ibid clause 9.3.

[35] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.6.

[36] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 10.2.

[37] ibid clause 3.34.

[38] ibid clause 10.2.

[39] ibid clause 10.2.

[40] ibid clause 10.2.

[41] AS/NZS 4801:2001 (Occupational health and safety management systems – Specification with guidance for use) clause 4.5.2.

[42] AS/NZS ISO 45001 (Occupational health & safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use) clause 10.3.