Do you really need a Safety Management System?
This is a question I have found that arises quite often from companies looking at their management of safety. Some think they are doing just fine without one, others just do not understand what is required, or how to go about it. In my experience this predominantly applies to small to medium companies that do not have the internal safety resources to develop one.
The motivation to ask this question for many of these companies usually arises from a couple of sources. The first is from their own internal safety performance where they may be having way too many incidents. The second is from external sources where they hear the horror stories of other companies who have had incidents with severe injuries or fatalities, and the financial penalties on those companies and realise this could happen to them. In either case there is a desire to change and prevent serious incidents within their organisations.
To those organisations considering a safety management system (SMS) my response is that a SMS provides the foundation and framework necessary for facilitating effective management of health and safety. Without a SMS how are workers to know what the standards are, or what are the procedural requirements for performing work activities, or the processes for reporting hazards and managing risk.
The SMS needs to be applicable to the organisation, so a good starting point is to conduct a risk assessment of the work activities of the organisation. This provides the ability to understand the elements, procedures and controls that are required within the system. However, having a SMS is not the be all and end all there are other necessary ingredients to providing a safe workplace.
The key ingredient is leadership and commitment to implement it throughout the organisation. This is necessary to drive the change and develop a safety culture that produces the desired behaviours at all levels within the company.
So, to answer to the question, do I really need a safety management system? In my view the answer is yes you do! BUT the condition is that you must drive the implementation of your SMS with strong leadership and commitment, otherwise sadly it is just a shelf filler.
What are your thoughts? What has been your experience? Does your organisation have a SMS and is it effective? What needs to be improved? And do you have the resources to make it happen?