Everything You Need to Know About Safety Management Systems

Dmytro Adamian Head of Customer Success & Support
Last Updated

With increasing regulatory demands, the complexity of modern operations, and the heightened awareness of worker rights, ensuring safety is becoming more crucial than ever. 

Businesses from all sectors, especially those in high-risk fields like energy or aviation, must prioritize HSE policies to protect their employees and their reputation.

In this article, we’ll cover what a safety management system is, why it’s critical to smooth operations, and how safety management software can help you foster a culture of awareness across your organization.

Contents:

What Is a Safety Management System?

A safety management system (SMS) is a comprehensive and systematic approach to managing safety risks in the workplace. It includes all the necessary operational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures.

An SMS helps organizations maintain high levels of occupational safety, optimize worker health onsite, offshore and in the office, avoiding hazards, labor issues, and building a safety culture.

What Is the Function of a Safety Management System?

The core safety management system’s purpose is to manage and mitigate safety risks, ensure regulatory compliance, promote a safety culture, and protect the health and well-being of workers.

However, its focus and implementation can differ between industries due to the unique risks and operational challenges they face. Here are a few examples:

  • In construction, an SMS focuses on preventing accidents related to heavy machinery, falls, and hazardous materials. 
  • In energy, including oil and gas, an SMS addresses risks associated with drilling, production, and transportation of hazardous materials. 
  • In aviation, an SMS is crucial for managing risks related to flight operations, maintenance, and ground handling. 
  • In healthcare, an SMS focuses on patient safety, infection control, and safe handling of medical equipment and hazardous substances.
  • In manufacturing, an SMS addresses risks related to machinery operation, chemical handling, and ergonomics. 

By fulfilling its functions, an SMS not only manages and mitigates risks but also fosters a culture of safety awareness, ensuring it’s a shared responsibility.

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Components and Elements of an SMS, and How They Differ

An SMS is built of several components and elements that work together to create a comprehensive approach to managing risks.

Components of a safety management system are broad categories that form its foundation and set the strategic direction. Each component comprises several elements that ensure practical implementation and improvement of HSE practices and safety protocols.

Here are more differences between the two.

Safety Management System ComponentsSafety Management System Elements
ScopeBroad categories Specific actions or processes within the components
RoleSet the strategic direction for safety managementEnsure practical implementation and continuous improvement of safety practices
Implementation levelStrategic, often involving senior managementOperational and tactical, involving all levels of the organization
ExampleA safety risk management policy that outlines the organization’s commitment to identifying, assessing, and controlling safety risksA risk identification process that includes specific steps like training, inspections, safety documentation, response tactics

4 Components and 12 Elements of a Safety Management System

A safety management system includes four core components.

  1. Safety policy. Establishes the commitment of the organization to safety. 
  2. Safety risk management. Focuses on identifying and mitigating risks and safety hazards.
  3. Safety assurance. Ensures that safety performance is monitored and improved.
  4. Safety promotion. Ensures that safety performance is monitored and improved.

Each of these is composed of elements that are grounded in industry best practices and regulatory requirements, ensuring that all critical aspects are addressed. 

Component: Safety policy

  1. Management commitment. A formal statement made by senior leaders, expressing the organization’s commitment to safety.
  2. Accountability. A clear definition of the organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities for managing safety.
  3. Personnel appointment. Identification and appointment of key personnel such as Safety Managers, Safety Officers, and Emergency Coordinators, as well as competence assurance.
  4. Emergency response planning. Development and implementation of procedures to effectively respond to emergencies, minimizing the impact on personnel, operations, and the environment.
  5. Documentation. Maintenance of accurate documentation for transparency, consistency, and compliance with regulatory requirements.

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Component: Safety risk management

  1. Hazard identification. Systematic identification of all potential sources of harm within the workplace that could affect the health and safety of employees.
  2. Risk assessment. Evaluation of the potential impact of identified hazards and determination of the likelihood of their occurrence, as well as monitoring and reviewing.

Component: Safety assurance

  1. Performance monitoring. Ongoing monitoring and analysis of metrics to track safety, including incident rates, near-misses, and compliance with safety procedures.
  2. Continuous improvement. A structured process for managing changes that could impact safety.
  3. Management of change. An ongoing effort to enhance safety performance by systematically reviewing and improving safety processes, policies, and practices.

Component: Safety promotion

  1. Safety training and education. Training programs to provide employees with the necessary knowledge, skills, and awareness to perform their jobs safely and effectively.
  2. Safety communication. Safety communication strategies, including toolbox talks and regular feedback mechanisms, this involves the exchange of information related to safety throughout your organization.

This mix of elements helps you stay on top of safety. It fosters a culture where both ops managers and workers always look to improve and manage risks before they become issues.

Safety Management System Regulations

When it comes to keeping safety systems effective and consistent, there is a set of regulations and standards to follow. 

There are multiple SMS regulatory bodies out there, including:

  • OSHA (US) – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration exists to safeguard workers’ health and safety in America. 
  • ILO (US) – The International Labor Organization promotes social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights.
  • BSI (UK) – The BSI specializes in safety standards development, certification, training, and assessment.
  • HSE (UK) – The Health and Safety Executive focuses on the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety, and welfare.
  • ISO 45001 – The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides a framework to improve employee safety, reduce workplace risks, and create better, safer working conditions.

And while HSE and OSHA standards are prominent points of reference worldwide, different industries and regions have their own specific standards too. For example:

  • EASA – European Union Aviation Safety Agency has specific requirements for aviation operators and service providers in Europe.
  • CAA – The Civil Aviation Authority regulates SMS in the aviation sector, for example the CAA in the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA NZ), and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
  • NOPSEMA – The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority regulates the offshore petroleum industry.
  • AMSA – The Australian Maritime Safety Authority oversees SMS for the maritime industry in Australia.

The best way to know which ones apply to your industry and region is to consult national regulators, review industry-specific regulations, or check with professional associations that provide relevant resources and guidance.

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How Safety Management Systems Are Used in Different Industries

With versatile frameworks, SMSs can be adapted to various industries, considering each with a unique set of challenges and regulatory requirements. This adaptability ensures that safety measures are both effective and compliant no matter the field.

Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC)

This sector involves rigorous safety protocols that keep civil engineering workers safe at height, or when dealing with dangerous substances.

Uses of an SMS include regular site inspections and risk assessments, safety training programs, and response plans for accidents and natural disasters.

Aviation

Airlines require some of the most stringent safety protocols around and use SMSs to implement regular training programs for pilots, cabin crew, and ground staff. As well as tracking and improving safety measures.

Safety management for the field includes regular internal and external audits, safety training, reporting and analysis of near-misses, and continuous monitoring of flight operations.

Marine

Implementing an SMS in the marine industry helps ensure the safety of crew, passengers, and cargo, as well as the protection of the marine environment. 

A shipping company might implement an SMS that includes automated monitoring of ship systems and real-time reporting of deviations, enabling quick corrective actions to prevent incidents.

Transportation

Highly regulated transportation can require exhaustive and varied safety practices like training programs for drivers, vehicle inspections and incident analysis. 

Incident analysis is performed to understand the root causes of accidents or near-misses, allowing for continuous improvement in safety practices. Additionally, SMS applications can track compliance with regulations, manage maintenance schedules, and ensure that all safety-related documentation is up-to-date and accessible.

Manufacturing

In this sector, the risks of machinery operation, hazardous materials, and complex processes, require structured and systematic safety management.

For example, a chemical manufacturer might use an SMS that includes a comprehensive training program on the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

Renewable Energy

The renewable energy and fossil fuel sectors tend to have certain hazards in common, namely: fall hazards, large machine hazards, electrical current hazards, confined spaces, elemental exposure (high winds, extreme temperatures, dangerous fauna). 

Mitigating risk in the renewables sector can take the form of improved upskilling and accelerated safety approval and verification.

Oil and Gas

These industries can involve safety challenges similar to those in the renewable energy sector. Both sectors can comprise exploration, exposure to powerful natural elements, and the use of extreme and massive machinery. 

Additionally, this field requires components of SMS that must foresee and be able to react to sudden change, making risk management uniquely demanding.

Real-World Examples

A common safety management trend across all industries nowadays is the increasing use of digital technology to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and compliance.

Tools like mobile inspection apps, document automation systems, workflow automation software, and incident reporting platforms help streamline documentation, facilitate real-time monitoring, and enable swift corrective actions.

For instance, the UK’s leading charter airline Titan Airways has successfully used Fluix’s electronic flight bags to digitize their cabin crew operations. 

Quoting their line training captain Andrew Taggart: “When we have a last-minute charter to a complex region, our Flight Operations department can get important airfield briefs uploaded into Fluix, so the pilots operating the flight can receive critical safety information immediately.” Read their story here.

Similarly, in the construction industry, digital solutions enable more effective site inspections and real-time hazard reporting. 

Construction company Dyna Crane Services has used digital checklists and safety documents to improve their safety management, saving almost 3,185 labor hours and $286,650 annually. Read their story here.

Key Benefits of a Safety Management System

A safety management system provides numerous perks, particularly for field service and highly-regulated businesses. The main ones include:

  • Lower operation overheads    
  • Less risk of injuries and illnesses onsite
  • Fewer operational errors (and the reduction of associated costs)
  • Compliance with workplace laws 
  • Maintenance of health and safety related mandates
  • Better employee engagement with the business 
  • Established behavior-based safety
  • Diminished insurance premiums
  • Elimination of unnecessary legal fees

If you manage to safeguard at least half of them for your business, its performance would grow exponentially.

How to Create and Implement an SMS at Your Site

Creating an SMS is a significant undertaking that requires a step-by-step approach to ensure everything is done correctly. Here are the basic steps to follow: 

1. Establish a Safety Policy

Develop a clear safety policy that outlines your organization’s commitment to safety. This should be supported by top management and communicated to all employees.

2. Define Roles and Responsibilities

Create safety roles and responsibilities across all levels of the organization. Appointing a safety manager or officer who would oversee the SMS implementation and maintenance would be a good move.

3. Develop a Hazard Identification Process

Conduct inspections and audits to identify potential hazards. Next, evaluate the severity of those you’ve spotted and prioritize risks based on their potential impact.

4. Implement Risk Mitigation Measures

Develop and implement control measures to eliminate or reduce identified risks. This may include engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

5. Establish Safety Performance Monitoring 

Implement key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor safety performance. Using data to track incident rates, near-misses, and compliance will help you make better decisions later.

Regularly audit safety practices and procedures to ensure compliance and identify areas for improvement.

6. Foster a Safety Culture

To improve workplace safety, provide continuous safety training and education programs for all employees. Ensure they cover hazard recognition, safe work practices, and emergency procedures.

7. Utilize Digital Solutions

Digital solutions can make safety management more efficient through many ways – from centralizing documentation to enabling real-time hazard identification to streamlining incident reporting. 

To make the best use of them, make sure you train your teams on the usage and invest time in proper onboarding.

Improving Your Safety Management with Fluix

Fluix is workflow automation software that offers businesses of all sizes and industries powerful tools to enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of their safety management systems, including:

  • Centralized documentation: Fluix allows you to manage all your safety-related documents in one centralized platform, ensuring everyone has access to the most up-to-date information.
  • Mobile inspections: Your safety personnel can use Fluix’s mobile app to conduct real-time safety inspections and audits. This allows them to identify and report hazards on the spot, ensuring timely mitigation.
  • Incident reporting: Digital forms that can be filled out and submitted from any location, and incidents are documented accurately and promptly.
  • Task assignments: You can automatically assign tasks to the relevant people when hazards are identified or incidents occur. This ensures they are addressed promptly and efficiently.
  • Training management: Fluix enables you to manage all steps of the employee training programs, from material distribution to assignment completion to certificate tracking.
  • Dashboards and reports: You can use Fluix’s dashboards to get real-time insights into your safety performance metrics. Analyze data to identify trends, areas of improvement, and measure the effectiveness of your safety initiatives.

Other Fluix’s features include compliance management, audit trails and custom integrations that altogether help you create a safer working environment, without adding more complexity (or paperwork) to your operations.

Implementing Fluix can transform your SMS into a dynamic, proactive, and responsive system that adapts to the ever-changing safety landscape.

Improve Your Business Performance by Improving Your Safety Management

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Improve Your Business Performance by Improving Your Safety Management

Our team is here to help