Safety Management Systems

Take Safety To The Next Level

A safety management system (SMS) is a continuous improvement process that reduces hazards and prevents incidents. It protects the health and safety of your employees and should be integrated into everyday processes throughout the organization. Investing in an SMS makes a measurable impact on your bottom line and can be viewed as a competitive advantage. The adoption of an SMS framework and thoughtful implementation of the various facets can have significant impact on protecting employees and enhancing your organization’s performance and profitability. While safety requirements may differ across industries, exemplary organizations all focus on continuous improvement that aims for an ongoing reduction of risk with a goal of zero incidents.

About a year ago, knowing the new international voluntary standard for safety management systems, ISO 45001, was on the horizon, NSC started investigating all the prevalent SMS frameworks and identifying commonalities. We recognized many companies were getting bogged down with questions such as: What is a safety management system? How can it help me? Which framework is right for my business? How do I go about implementing an SMS? We knew the research supported the benefits of SMS implementation, but we sought clarity on what that looked like and a simple way to illustrate what elements constitute a successful SMS.

An effective safety management system has the following facets:

  • People – nothing gets implemented without people who are committed, engaged, and motivated; real safety change can’t happen without a competent, skilled workforce
  • Planning – thinking ahead is half the battle of implementation; planning for foreseeable risks and the administrative parts of a management system will yield smoother rollouts and foster measurement of SMS success
  • Programs – most companies have EHS programs that identify and control hazards, monitor and measure operational impacts to EHS performance, and eliminate deviations from the management system; individual programs must operate as part of the entire system, not independently
  • Progress – to avoid complacency, companies need to periodically measure their compliance with regulatory and legal requirements, audit their SMS system, and review SMS performance with upper management
  • Performance – measures of performance need to be set and include both lagging indicators and leading indicators; adopting leading indicators and evaluating safety metrics among the entire business performance metric landscape helps companies solidify safety on equal footing with other key operational practices – adopting a mindset of “safe operations” versus viewing safety apart from operations

Learn more about NSC Consulting Services on Safety Management Systems.

Keeping Contractors Safe

Contract workers often perform higher risk jobs with little management supervision. An NSC study looks at the impact of contractor management programs on contractor safety.

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“Employers want to reduce the rate of injury. But sometimes, despite best efforts, they get stuck. It helps to pause, look at what experts are saying, seek out others who have been in that situation, get everybody together – including workers – to find out why things are stuck.”

– Dr. John Howard, Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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In this guide for safety practitioners, you'll learn how to prepare a business case for investment in safety.

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