Within the world of occupational safety, there are a myriad of complex government regulatory requirements; federal, county and local, industry and corporate requirements to juggle managing every day.   Now throw into the mix the daily routine of attending various on-site meetings such as production, quality, logistics, etc. and the numerous phone conference calls throughout the day, every day can be, mostly is, a challenge to keep up with the demands of minimizing hazards to an acceptable level of risk.

safety management system

One way to obtain and maintain sanity for an occupational safety person who manages or serves as part of a safety committee is to manage the chaos of everyday activities; auditing, inspection, training, business meetings attendance, phone conference calls, etc.,  is to develop an effective  safety management system (SMS).

What is this sanity cure that is called a safety management system, known from this point forward as SMS, you might ask?  Well, to put it simple, a SMS is a systematic, comprehensive business approach to manage personal risk.  That is it.  Similar to other management systems, a SMS provides goal setting, planning, and measurement of performance.  SMS is woven into the culture of a business organization.  A SMS can be imbedded within any business organization within any business industry sector.

A SMS is designed with the intent to serve as a framework for an organization, as a minimum, to meet its legal occupational safety and health obligations. A SMS is only as good as its implementation and sustainable efforts.  A world class SMS involves every level of the organization, instilling “the value of safety” within the workforce that reduces incidents and improves a reduction of risk. Furthermore, a world class SMS provides evidence of continuous improvement. A business that embraces a SMS, will have a story to tell and capturing continuous improvement within the elements of SMS is a key factor of validating the SMS.

Within a SMS, all parts are interrelated and affect each other.  All elements are related to all other elements of the system. A flaw in one element will most likely impact all the other elements, and therefore the quality of the system as a whole.

Now since you have an understanding of what is a SMS, let’s take a look at the main definitions of a safety management system (SMS).  These definitions are not all inclusive when identifying the broad range of safety management systems that exist.

Acceptable Risk – Acceptable risk is a risk that has been reduced to a level that your organization has determined to be tolerated.

Audit – An audit is an evidence gathering process.  An audit occurs to evaluate how well the criteria within the safety management system are being met.  An audit is objective and independent.  The audit process is systematic and is of course documented.

Continual Improvement – Continual improvement is a recurring, ongoing process that enhances an organization’s safety management system and improves its overall safety performance. Continual improvements are achieved by carrying out internal and external audits, performing management review meetings, analyzing data, and implementing both corrective and preventive actions.

 Corrective ActionCorrective actions are steps that are taken to remove the cause or causes of an existing nonconformity or other undesirable situation. Corrective actions address actual problems. In general, the corrective action process can be thought of as a problem solving process.

Document – When information is placed on a medium it becomes a document. In this context, the term medium usually refers to paper. But it can also refer to electronic, magnetic, or optical disks. A set of
documents is often referred to as documentation.

Hazard – A hazard is any situation, substance, activity, event, or environment that could potentially cause personal injury or ill to health.

Hazard Identification – Hazard identification is a process that involves recognizing an occupational safety and health hazard.

Incident – An incident is a work related event during which:

  1. injury, ill health, or fatality actually occurs, or
  2. injury, ill health, or fatality could have occurred.

A close call, near miss, near hit, or dangerous occurrence is an incident type. It is a work-related event during which injury, ill health, or fatality could have occurred, but did not actually occur.

Nonconformity – Nonconformity is the non-fulfillment of a safety management system requirement or a deviation from a safety management system standard. When an organization fails to meet such requirements or when it deviates from a standard, nonconformity exists.

 Safety Objective – A safety objectives are safety management system performance goals that organizations establish for themselves and wish to accomplish. An organization’s health and safety objectives should be both measurable and consistent with its current health and safety policy.

Occupational Safety Performance – Occupational safety performance is all about results. It’s all about how well an organization manages their safety risks and the results they actually achieve to minimize those risks. In order to be able to determine and demonstrate how well safety risks are being managed, occupational safety performance must be measurable. You can measure your organization’s OH&S performance by measuring the effectiveness of your controls and by comparing your OH&S results and achievements against your OH&S policy, objectives, or any other suitable OH&S performance requirements.

Occupational Safety Policy – An organization’s safety policy expresses an organizations commitment to the implementation and ongoing maintenance of its voluntarily own safety management system along with the improvement of its overall safety performance. An organizations safety policy should emphasize the need to prevent injury and ill health, comply with all legal and non-legal requirements, and be appropriate to the nature and scale of the health and safety risks associated with the organization environment. A safety policy should is used to drive the implementation and maintenance of the overall safety management system to develop safety objectives, and to encourage continual improvement action.  The safety policy is the foundation of any safety management system that the organization incorporates. All additional requirements and elements within the safety management system reflect back to the safety policy.

Preventive Action – Preventive actions are steps that are taken to remove the causes of potential nonconformities or any other undesirable condition that have not yet occurred. Preventive actions address potential problems.  In general terms, the preventive action process can be thought of as being similar to a risk analysis process.

Procedure – A procedure is a specified way of carrying out an activity or a process. Procedures may or may not be documented.

Record – A record is a document that shows what kinds of activities and or results that are being performed and achieved.  A record will always be a document that provides historical evidence.

Risk – Risk combines three elements: it starts with a potential risk of an activity, and then combines its probability with its potential severity.  The concept of risk asks the two following questions:

  1. What is the probability that a particular hazardous event or exposure will actually occur in the future?
  2. How severe would the impact on health and safety be if the hazardous event or exposure actually occurred?

A high risk hazardous exposure would include both a high probability of occurring and a severe impact if an event from the exposure actually occurred. A high risk event or exposure is one that is likely to cause severe injury, ill health or death.