What is a Safety Management System?

Safety Management System


The term “safety management system” gets used a lot, but do you know what one is and what it can do for you and your business? Let’s break it down.

  1. What is a safety management system?

A safety management system (SMS) is a process for managing risk. It is generally composed of policy, risk management, hazard management, and training. A good system focuses on prevention, and allows for decision making, knowledge sharing, and promotion of safety through a culture of safety. Smart businesses have a plan for managing risk that is documented, implemented and operated daily that everyone has access to and allows for improvements. This is a safety management system.

  1. Can a safety management system be electronic?

Yes! In fact, most are. The two most important components of a safety management system are accountability and transparency. Accountability ensures tasks are actioned and completed on time. Transparency ensures information is shared openly and results in responsibility. These elements can be difficult to achieve through a paper-based system. An online system will enable your SMS to become a dynamic component of the business, not just a document repository, assisting in the capture of knowledge to assist new workers and manage process safety.  The best systems are easy-to-use and simple to implement, with the ability to clearly document actions, responsibilities, and due dates.

  1. Am I required to have one?

It depends. Many contractors are required to have a system in place as stated in their contract, as are many businesses of various sizes due to documentation requirements for risk management in their industry. Recently aviation, rail and marine industries have incorporated SMS requirements into their regulations as part of doing business in Australia. The FAA in the United States requires this as well.

  1. What can having an SMS do for me?

Safety management systems are about good decision making. A lack of injuries does not necessarily indicate good safety management. It could indicate good fortune and businesses don’t operate on luck for long. Incidents generally occur because lessons are forgotten and workers become complacent over time, especially if near misses are not tracked. Having good data in a safety management system allows a company to take action on risks and operate safely and efficiently. The key is to get ahead of incidents through risk monitoring and analysis by relying on operational systems data. It allows for a shift from reactive to proactive in regards to safety, and ideally to a predictive stance in the future.

Having a safety management system helps legislative compliance, reduces the frequency of incidents, improves management of training requirements, and builds an overall culture of safety. Workers benefit because they know the expectations, have clear decision making processes regarding safety, and have clear channels of reporting.

For a free trial of our safety management system, visit

By Stacey Wagner

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