Developing an Effective Safety Management System


Health and Safety Consultant at EazySAFE

Developing an effective safety management system can be a daunting prospect, even for the most experienced Health and Safety professional, especially if you are starting from scratch!

Starting the process is probably the hardest part and getting all the main players on board. Once you have commitment from everyone, you can really make some positive changes, within any company, big or small. You will see workplace health and safety improve year on year by implementing and committing to a robust Safety Management System.

“Without a planned, structured system for Health and Safety, you are swimming against the tide”

What is a Safety Management System?

A Safety Management System (SMS) is a systematic approach to managing safety, which includes the necessary organizational structures, accountabilities, health and safety training and policies and procedures.

Why is an effective Safety Management System important for Workplace Health and Safety?

Without a planned, structured system for Health and Safety, you are swimming against the tide. The majority of companies, who already excel commercially, usually excel in the area of Safety Management too. This is usually due to the fact that they incorporate similar business values to the area, which they know can help them succeed. In short, they treat health and safety as another facet of the business and rank it at the same level of importance.

How can a company implement an Effective Safety Management System?

The most important thing you need to ensure, as a Health and Safety Manager, is to get commitment from senior management for the company SMS. Without this support, your SMS will never take off the ground and be a success.

Management training for an effective safety management system

“An easy way to get senior management involved and committed is to ask them to attend health and safety training, specifically for their level”

An easy way to get senior management involved and committed is to ask them to attend health and safety training, specifically for their level. This training will ensure that they are clear on their legal responsibilities as directors/managers and will explain to them why the company needs a robust SMS. You can also get good guidance from the H.S.A. document, “Guidance for Directors and Senior Managers on their Responsibilities for Workplace Safety and Health”, available on the H.S.A. website.

Key elements of an effective Safety Management System:

  • Policy and Commitment
  • Planning
  • Implementation and Operation
  • Measuring Performance
  • Auditing and Reviewing

Before attempting to tackle any of the above subjects, it is important that the company carry out a total review of the workplace health and safety management and arrangements. This review should compare the current safety and health practices with health and safety legislation, company safety statement, responsibilities, guidance documents and best practice for the industry in question. The following areas are minimum compliance under health and safety legislation:

The above are the key areas that the review should focus on. Each area will need to be drilled down into more detail to ensure that all aspects are assessed and addressed. These key areas will create the foundation of the SMS.

How to maintain your successful Safety Management System:

So, you’ve done all the hard work and put everything in place to ensure a safe working environment for everyone. What can you do to make sure that your Safety Management System continues to be successful and to drive improvement year on year?

  • Measure, monitor and evaluate the company’s safety performance.
  • Regular auditing and reviewing of the current system.
  • Sustain continual improvement.

Some companies may consider applying OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health & Safety Management as their SMS. This standard helps organisations meet their health and safety obligations, control the impact of potential and actual hazards, and improve their health and safety performance. The specification takes a structured approach to H&S management. The emphasis is placed on practices being pro-active and preventive, by the identification of hazards and the evaluation and control of work related risks. OHSAS 18001 can be used by organisations of all sizes regardless of the nature of their activities or location. Organisations can now achieve third party certification for their Health and Safety management system.

Other companies may decide that they will manage their SMS with the help of software system, or an external consultant, or both. Using a software solution can really aid in the day to day management of your SMS and can make it easier to get other employees involved and responsible for their areas. When choosing a software system, ensure you speak to current or past clients, not all software systems are the same and may not always suit the company’s needs.

There is no doubt that developing and maintaining an effective Safety Management System is an ever increasing challenge facing most organisations. This may be due to high injury and illness, lost work days, increasing occupational health and safety regulations, large citations/penalties, rising workers’ compensation costs, costly medical claims, worker retention and employee satisfaction. However, it is important to remember that there are a number of tools available to companies to ensure that they deliver the best SMS that they can.

Employee Induction Training

Much success of any SMS is attributed to employee health and safety training and awareness of safety issues and understanding. This increased awareness has been the key factor for organisations saving in legal expenses, building damage, tool and equipment damage, product and material damage and production delays and interruptions.


In the long run, the commitment, investment and hard work that goes into developing a Safety Management System will pay off, tenfold. Bottom line improvements for organisations, that have a robust safety management system include:

  • Efficient organisational discipline.
  • Improved employee awareness and satisfaction.
  • Acknowledged positively by insurers.
  • A reduction in workers’ compensation.
  • Reduced medical costs.
  • Increased control of regulatory issues.

In short, the effort is worth it and always worth it when you are creating a safer and healthier workplace for everyone!

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