Within the world of occupational safety, there are a myriad of complex government regulatory requirements; federal, county and local, industry and corporate requirements to juggle managing every day.   Now throw into the mix the daily routine of attending various on-site meetings such as production, quality, logistics, etc. and the numerous phone conference calls throughout the day, every day can be, mostly is, a challenge to keep up with the demands of minimizing hazards to an acceptable level of risk.

One way to obtain and maintain sanity for an occupational safety person who manages or serves as part of a safety committee is to manage the chaos of everyday activities; auditing, inspection, training, business meetings attendance, phone conference calls, etc.,  is to develop an effective  safety management system.


What is this sanity cure that is called a safety management system, known from this point forward as SMS, you might ask?  Well, to put it simple, a SMS is a systematic, comprehensive business approach to manage personal risk.  That is it.  Similar to other management systems, a SMS provides goal setting, planning, and measurement of performance.  SMS is woven into the culture of a business organization.  A SMS can be imbedded within any business organization within any business industry sector.

A SMS is designed with the intent to serve as a framework for an organization, as a minimum, to meet its legal occupational safety and health obligations. A SMS is only as good as its implementation and sustainable efforts.  A world class SMS involves every level of the organization, instilling “the value of safety” within the workforce that reduces incidents and improves a reduction of risk. Furthermore, a world class SMS provides evidence of continuous improvement. A business that embraces a SMS, will have a story to tell and capturing continuous improvement within the elements of SMS is a key factor of validating the SMS.

Within a SMS, all parts are interrelated and affect each other.  All elements are related to all other elements of the system. A flaw in one element will most likely impact all the other elements, and therefore the quality of the system as a whole.

Now since you have an understanding of what is a SMS, let’s take a look at the main elements of a safety management system.

SMS Key Elements

  • Management Leadership provides the motivating force and appropriate resources for organizing and controlling activities within the organization. In an effective SMS, management regards worker safety and health as a fundamental value. Employer involvement provides the means through which workers express their own commitment to safety and health, for themselves and their fellow workers.  An effective SMS requires top down management commitment and a willingness to continuously improve.
  • Employee Engagement provides a means through which workers are engaged their own commitment to safety and health, and to their fellow workers.  It is important to recognize that employee engagement is arranged around the number and variety of activities for workers to raise safety concerns, participate in training, auditing and inspection activities. When workers feel empowered to be engaged in the SMS, they are more likely to support the program and utilize the various programs that detailed within the SMS.
  • Worksite Analysis is evaluating the worksite to identify and if possible, eliminate hazardous conditions that exist at the time the analysis is conducted or potential hazards that may become present later.  The analysis should be a comprehensive survey, with a system in place for periodic re-evaluation and updates. Analysis should be conducted for planned and new facilities, non-routine tasks, changed processes, materials and equipment.
  • Hazard Prevention and Control includes the hierarchy of minimizing risk.  This includes engineering controls that completely eliminate risk.  Secondly, safe work practices which are the company general workplace rules and other operation-specific rules.  Lastly, personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Safety and Health Training develops the knowledge and skill set that is needed to understand workplace hazards and safe procedures.

SMS Is Not

SMS is not, the sole responsibility of the safety department.  Too many times worker safety is not owned by those who benefit it the most, the worker.  SMS is not a burden to business.  In fact, implementing a SMS effectively will reduce burden and increase productivity and morale.  SMS does not provide a self-regulatory process.  An organization that has a robust SMS will more likely go beyond regulatory compliance to ensure worker safety.

SMS Roles and Responsibilities

  • Senior Management is accountable for establishing the SMS and allocating appropriate resources to support and maintain an effective SMS.
  • Management is responsible for the implementation and adherence to the processes of SMS within their area(s).
  • Employees are responsible for identifying and reporting hazards and comply with SMS procedures and policies.

How SMS Benefits Organizations

SMS benefits organizations in a variety of ways that include, but not limited to,

  • Improving safety by reducing risk of injury.
  • Improved resource allocation that will result in increased efficiencies and reduced costs;
  • Establishes and strengthens safety culture.
  • Displays business commitment to worker safety and diligence to meet regulatory compliance.

Evidence of an Effective SMS

  • A top-down commitment from management and a personal commitment from all employees to achieve safety performance goals;
  • Provides a clear roadmap of what the SMS is, what it is supposed to accomplish and what it is not;
  • An established practice of open communication throughout the business organization that is comprehensive and transparent, and where necessary, non-punitive; and
  • An organizational safety culture that continuously strives to improve.

Experience of our ISO consultants

I have served as a management representative (MR) for various management systems such as ISO9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and a few organizational own specific SMS’s that mostly used the ISO format.  Based on our experience we can  honestly say that establishing a SMS in today’s global economy is the only way to effectively manage chaos and change.  Without a SMS, organizations place themselves at risk of mismanaging hazards that most likely will adversely affect the safety of the worker.  Also, the organization increases the probability for potential regulatory non-compliance due to mismanaging hazards.  Furthermore, organizations risk negative public perception through social media if they are not recognized as employers who value their workers and not just profit.

If you are looking to get ISO 45001 Certification, you may need the services of a specialist Health and Safety Consultant who can guide you through the requirements of the ISO 45001 safety management system standard and help you develop and Implement the safety systems in your organisation.




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