What is the difference between AS/NZS 4801 and OHSAS 18001?

Miners underground in safety personal protective equipment (PPE)

As we move towards an increasingly globalised business community, many Australian companies are beginning to wonder – AS/NZS 4801 or OHSAS 18001? Both standards align well with other Management Systems standards, such as ISO 9001:2008 (Quality management systems) and ISO 14001:2004 (Environmental management systems), however this post aims to outline their subtle differences.

To give you a brief background, OHSAS 18001 was developed by a group of leading certification bodies from an existing British standard, while AS/NZS 4801 was developed by the Australian and New Zealand standards associations. There are many similarities between the two, and an understanding of one gives a fair understanding of the other.

Conceptually, the difference between the two standards is that AS/NZS 4801:2001 refers to the elimination of work-related injury, while OHSAS 18001:2007 commits to the prevention of injury and ill health within the described scope of the management system. Health is a key focus in OHSAS 18001 and elimination of injury is pivotal in AS/NZS 4801, however in both cases, the goal is for an injury and illness free work environment. There are differing requirements in each standard for the areas of the standards which require documented procedures and records; however these areas are clearly stated in each standard.

OHSAS 18001:2007 more clearly defines the roles of evaluation and compliance, incident investigation, nonconformity, and corrective and preventive action, and management review, however requirements in each of these areas is still stipulated within AS/NZS 4801:2001. AS/NZS 4801 has a more defined process for reporting, health assessment, and evaluation of the HIRAC (Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Control) process, and while these are implied in OHSAS 18001, they are not specifically defined. OHSAS 18001:2007 has a strong demand on legal requirements, and while AS/NZS 4801:2001 does not appear to have as strong a demand, many of the requirements in OHSAS 18001 are required regardless of certification due to Federal and State legislative requirements.

Typically, companies which operate solely within Australia and New Zealand opt to become certified against AS/NZS 4801:2001, while companies which operate internationally aim for certification under OHSAS 18001:2007. The choice between the two is completely up to the company which is garnering certification, and both are recognised equally within Australia. Many organizations just go for both – they are that similar.


John Andrew

I wonder if AS/NZS is because they are coming from Australia and New Zealand. I am currently studying quality management and my main focus is on ISO certification, but I want to learn a lot more than just ISO.

Jay Greensill

Hi John, thanks for your comment.
You are correct – the AS/NZS means that the standard was published by Standards Australia/ Standards New Zealand. You may be aware that there is a new standard for OHS coming, called ISO 45001. This will be an Internationally applicable standard, which we expect will take over from AS/NZS 4801 and OHSAS 18001 as the benchmark for OHS management systems.


Do small business owners who operate in Australia need to have the ISO 45001 by September 30, 2021?

Jay Greensill

Hi Diana,
Great question – JAS-ANZ have some guidance here: https://www.jas-anz.org/iso-45001-migration-date
All organisations that are certified should migrate to ISO 45001:2018 by September 12, 2021, though certification isn’t a legal requirement, so the need for it is determined by the business itself.

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