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Home | Weekly E-Alert Articles | What is a Safety Management System?

What is a Safety Management System?
June 15, 2012
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Do you have a comprehensive safety management system? How are all of your safety-related processes and plans integrated? In a CER webinar titled "Safety Management Systems: How To Integrate Your SMS and Develop a Culture of Safety," Michael Lawrence explained what it means to have a comprehensive safety management system and how it can benefit you.

What is a Safety Management System?

A safety management system is a comprehensive and integrated system that ensures that all work is conducted safely. By comprehensive, we mean that it "explains the way that all the safety issues, as well as your control measures are managed," Lawrence explained. It should provide a "clear link between controls management and the safety management system."

To be integrated, the safety management system needs to be a part of everything in your company – safety is not a stand-alone department or program or policy.

A safety management system should allow you to:

  • Manage and maintain knowledge.
  • Perform risk assessments and hazard identification.
  • Define safety roles and responsibilities.
  • Ensure adequate skills, information, tools and decision-making are present in day-to-day operations.
  • Develop performance measurements.
  • Review and improve the system itself.

Remember, it's not just documentation – it is the actual implementation of processes, procedures and practices. Additionally, in a good safety management system:

  • The structure is logical and systematic. It logically ties in to other management systems and works with them without contradicting them.
  • Everything is fully documented, accessible and comprehensible to those that need to use it. The abbreviations and terms used mean something to employees. (Consider language issues.)
  • The designer and users recognize the potential for errors and establish effective control measures which are fully implemented to ensure that errors do not result in accidents or near misses.
  • Procedures are approved and in circulation. Document control is utilized.
  • Evidence is available (i.e. completed forms and/or checklists).
  • Employees are trained and knowledgeable.
  • There is a set of work practices and procedures for monitoring and improving the safety and health of all aspects of the operation.
  • Performance is measured to drive improvement.

What Are the Benefits of Implementing a Safety Management System?

Implementing a safety management system is hard work, but it's worthwhile. Here are some of the benefits:

  • More results for less work. EHS managers can't be everywhere at the same time; having a safety management system means they don't have to because others are trained.
  • Better tools. Lawrence advised that "it gives us the tools we need to make sure that people understand that it's their responsibility to work safely." Health and safety become everyone's responsibility.
  • Integration of systems. You can integrate health and safety into all aspects of your business.
  • Cost reduction. An effective system results in a reduction in work-related accidents, ill-health and the costs associated with them.
  • Improved performance. This occurs through heightened employee morale and increased adherence to policies and procedures.
  • Reputation enhancement. The system helps in reinforcing a responsible and well-managed reputation with customers, stakeholders, and communities.
  • Safety is highlighted. Having an effective safety management system means including discussion of health and safety impacts as part of the business process and planning activities. It can also lead to achieving the goal of an accident-free workplace.

To register for a future webinar, visit CER webinars.

Michael D. Lawrence is the Principal Consultant and founder of the firm Summit Safety Technologies in Long Beach, California. ( Michael is an accomplished safety manager with expertise in all areas of workplace safety, and is certified both in safety and health management systems for small business and also as a performance-based equipment trainer.

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