Having a competently-written, clear and concise safety management system (SMS) can mean the difference between a safe workplace and a hazardous one writes Fiona Burns, who is health, safety and environment consultant at Croner.

As we all know, a key element of good health and safety management is reviewing and revising the organisation’s policies and documentation.

Why not review your health and safety management system this week? Or, if you don’t have one in place already, start creating one.

What is a safety management system?

Typically, management systems are put in place to organise complicated processes.

A safety management system (SMS) should focus on encouraging and improving safety in the workplace, considering all processes and condensing them into a system that promotes effective risk-based decision making. As such, your system should be proactive rather than reactive, focusing primarily on hazards.

There are a few key processes you should recognise in your SMS, as follows.

• Identifying hazards: what it says on the tin — recognising significant hazards within your organisation.

Risk management: assessing your workplace’s risks and the measures taken or that should be taken to control those risks, such as fire risks.

• Health and safety performance: measuring performance against targets, ie whether you’ve achieved your company’s goals.

Accident reporting: ensuring that any accidents and incidents are being reported effectively, efficiently, and with the correct amount of detail.

• Safety assurance: helping your organisation to maintain a high standard of health and safety, and continuously improve safety management.

An SMS should always build on existing processes, not serve as a substitute for them.

How to implement an SMS

Prior to implementing a new safety management system, you should conduct a full review of all health and safety policies and procedures.

This review should check that the organisation is compliant and following best practice for your industry.

Once that is complete, set your objectives and targets. Measure these targets against key performance indicators.

Good indicators could include:

• carrying out a certain amount of planned risk assessments

• maintenance of critical equipment

• overall level of implementation of the SMS.

Periodic monitoring should be used to measure success. Questions that could be asked include the following.

• When did we last review the SMS?

• Do we report on health and safety performance in our annual review?

• Should we reward exceptional performance in health and safety?

• Do we carry out audits regularly?

• How do we learn from our mistakes?

Once these targets and questions are in place, you can work on integrating them in conjunction with your current processes.

If there are any sticking points, ask yourself how you could alter processes to fit with your organisation’s goals.

How will an SMS benefit my business?

Aside from the obvious benefit of improving overall health and safety, an SMS provides a number of benefits such as:

• improved decision making

• reduced accidents

• better resource allocation

• increased workforce efficiency

• reduced costs on health and safety

• stronger corporate culture

• demonstrates compliance.

Helpful frameworks

For organisations that would like to implement a safety management system but aren’t sure where to start, there are two useful frameworks.

• HSG 65 Managing for Health and Safety, Health and Safety Executive.

• ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. Requirements with Guidance for Use, International Organization for Standardization.

Further information

Safety Management Systems

Safety Monitoring Systems

Demonstrating an Effective Health and Safety Management System.

Need help? Call Croner’s UK-based occupational health and safety consultants on 0844 561 8149.

Last reviewed 7 February 2019