This British Standard was first approved and published in 1996 and has since been converted into a commercial certification scheme, referred to as OHSAS 18001. On several occasions since 1996, there have been attempts to convert BS8800 into an international (ISO) standard for the purposes of certification (akin to ISO 9000 etc.). Support has come from several countries but the issue is confused by rival bids from ILO and other national standards organisations.
It may be that imported certification schemes would be recognised as valid in the UK, thereby taking advantage of the UK’s inability to come up with its own scheme. Opposition to a certifiable standard has been fierce and mainly from industry.
All British Standards have to be reviewed. The review period for BS8800 was 5 years. BRE and ABI were original participants in the creation of BS8800 and were therefore invited to attend a review meeting in September 2001. Participants were asked to vote on the issue of revisions to BS8800 but the ballot papers were suffused with an attempt to turn it into a vote on the issue of certification. Voting was therefore confused, inconclusive and only partial (9 out of 39 eligible votes were actually cast).
It was unclear what changes to the standard are required but they should include; developments in Director responsibility, accident investigation, more transparent performance measurements and the effects of Turnbull. The committee agreed to ask members for a complete list of changes that should be made. This list will be reviewed in 2002.
It was inevitable that the meeting would once again discuss certification and that the discussion would lead nowhere. There are many bodies that have a commercial interest in there being a certifiable standard and many that oppose it on the grounds of burden on business. A unanimous view is required for a recommendation to be made to BSi management committee.
BS8800 could be viewed as establishing a standard for the Duty of Care. However, the standard required is almost indistinguishable from HSG (65), MHSWR (1999) and so on.
ILO standards are generally aimed at a much lower level, as they are intended to encourage third world participation. The draft ILO standard on the management of occupational health and safety also sets standards for governments. The UK government has traditionally been wary of signing ILO Conventions.
As with ISO 9000, it is perfectly possible to achieve certification status and yet not really meet the needs of effective management. The expected beneficial effect of meeting OHSAS 18001, or any other H&S certification scheme, on subsequent claims frequency has not been demonstrated.
There are some that argue that the existence of a certificate means that a failure to meet the standard would make it more difficult to defend a claim in the event of an injury. Opposed to this is that BS8800 does not require any higher or additional standards than those already required under the HSW etc Act 1974 and associated guidance.
On the whole, it should be the case, that those who obtain and strive to keep a health and safety management certificate should experience fewer personal injury events. Certification should not make the frequency of successful claims any higher, and should if anything reduce them.
A very brief paper on Health and Safety Management for CEOs is being prepared by Industry Cooperation on Standards & Conformity Assessment (ICSCA) http://www.icsca.org.au 4 pages, soon to be released. The draft ILO guidelines run to 39 pages. BRE has .pdf versions of both these, but cautions that they are just drafts.