Certification of OHS management in a Nordic context

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    The Nordic countries have introduced a broad perspective on OHS covering work-caused afflictions and the psychosocial working conditions, and absence due to illness etc. in addition to the traditional focus on prevention of technical accident risks. This understanding of OHS is defined in an interaction between stakeholders including researchers, OHS professionals, and the labour market organisations and has to a large degree been reflected in the Nordic countries OHS legislation. In the last decade the use of OHS management systems has been taken up in Danish legislation as a complement to the traditional command and control regulation. This has triggered a debate on how OHS management systems operate and impact the working environment. This article present a study of how OHS management systems in the form of OHSAS 18001 is constructed and how they reflect existing regulatory practices and their intended impacts based mainly on experiences from Denmark . This included a critical review of how legal requirements and the involvement of stakeholders is phrased and handled within the prescribed management systems. OHSAS 18001 is based on the logic and structure in the quality standard ISO 9001 despite the different focus on the material conditions for safety and the physical and chemical working environment not defined within the standards framework. The standard implies the existence of ‘objective’ OHS criteria’s that can be verified and measured. At the same time the standard leaves it to the organization’s management to decide which elements of OHS performance they commit to while the only explicit OHS demand is to comply with legal requirements. Additionally the certification is covered by the accreditation standard requirements of confidentiality, where as the validity of a certificate end up being hidden for the involved stakeholders. The consequences of these foundational elements of the existing management standard are analysed and exemplified. The Nordic Minister Council has funded the project, OHS Certification as Control Instrument and Control Strategy, which together with earlier studies of the working and impact of environmental management systems has provided the basis for this article.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the CERVA Conference
    Number of pages13
    Publication date2009
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    EventCERVA - Copenhagen, Denmark
    Duration: 8 Jun 20099 Jun 2009




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