Why ISO 45001 Documentation Should Include an OH&S Manual?

Why ISO 45001 Documentation Should Include an OH&S Manual?

12 Jan 2023

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This informal CPD article, ‘Why ISO 45001 Documentation Should Include an OH&S Manual?’ was provided by Punyam Academy, an industry leader in training of international compliance standards.

Every ISO 45001 OH&S Management System consists of a number of documents and records which are commonly known as ‘documented information’. ISO 45001:2018 standard specifies only some documented information that needs to be maintained and/or retained, for example, OH&S policy, scope and objectives and documented information related to roles and responsibilities, competence of personnel, risks and opportunities, legal and other requirements, communication, emergency preparedness and response, monitoring and measurement, internal audits, management review, incidents or nonconformities and corrective actions taken, etc.

In addition, this standard requires organisations to determine any other documented information they need for the effectiveness of the OH&S management system. Organisations are required to create, update and control all such documented information and maintain and retain documented information as evidence of continual improvement. However, the standard does not suggest any form of documentation. 

It allows flexibility to the organisation in developing an OH&S management system documentation, which may differ from one organisation to other, due to different size of the organisation and type of its activities, processes, goods and services. The extent of documented information will also depend on the complexity of processes and their interactions, and training and competence of personnel. The type and amount of documentation should support an efficient OH&S management system.

Why OH&S Manual?

It is noteworthy that ISO 45001:2018 standard doesn’t specify the need for an OH&S manual or ISO 45001 system manual. Even the term “manual” is nowhere mentioned in the standard. Then why an organisation should invest time and resources for creating such a document? This question may arise in the minds of top management and OH&S coordinators of the organisations, especially when they have created and included in OH&S management system several documented information, such as procedures, work instructions, plans, exhibits, and records etc. related to the processes and activities of their OH&S management system.

The fact is that though OH&S manual is not a requirement of the standard, it is needed for the effectiveness of any OH&S management system as it covers each element of the implemented system and describe the system at macro level. In real practice, almost all the organisations who want to establish, implement and maintain a good ISO 45001 OH&S system create and maintain an OH&S Manual. Some other reasons that necessitate creation of an OH&S manual are the following:

  • An OH&S manual includes the OH&S policy, objectives and scope of OH&S management system, which are requirements of ISO 45001:2018 standard.
  • It describes the OH&S management system of an organisation in detail, thus helpful for personnel and other interested parties of the organisation to understand how the system works.
  • It describes the objectives of top management for all functions/departments of the organisation and thus serves as guideline for planning and documenting the procedures to meet requirements of different clauses of ISO 45001:2018 standard applicable to each function/department.
  • OH&S manual is used as a basic tool for effective implementation of the OH&S system and helps managers to identify any deviations from the established system.
  • Change is a perpetual process in any organisation. Unless there is a written description of each task/ function, it will be difficult to make any reasoned evaluation of any proposed change or its outcome.
  • As a system manual describes the functions of each department in an orderly manner, although at a macro level, it can be used as an aid to train department personnel.
  • An OH&S manual is used as a marketing aid to convince customers about organisation’s activities and capabilities to meet the OH&S needs, so that the customers can visualize the products/services they will get from the organisation. 
  • Relevant contents of an OH&S manual can be very useful to prospective suppliers. It can guide them in accordance with the requirements set out by the organisation.
  • It is also used to rationalize one's own OH&S management system.
  • OH&S manual is used as a basic tool for adequacy audit of OH&S management system, and thus vital for system certification process.

These reasons may be enough for sensible management to understand the importance of an OH&S manual and consider the creation of this vital ISO 45001 document if they wish to establish, implement, maintain and improve their ISO 45001 OH&S management system. Having a well-designed OH&S manual with effective document control will not only make system implementation easier but also help in passing through any stringent audit by third-party auditors in order to achieve ISO 45001:2018 certification.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Punyam Academy, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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Punyam Academy Pvt. Ltd.

Punyam Academy Pvt. Ltd.

For more information from Punyam Academy Pvt. Ltd., please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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