Safety Management System Meaning & Definition | EcoOnline
Health & Safety Glossary

Safety Management System

A safety management system coordinates and implements safety policies for effective risk mitigation.


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It all starts with a strong safety culture. Learn how to encourage workplace participation in safety processes, and how to foster a positive safety culture.


What Is a Safety Management System (SMS)?

A safety management system (SMS) is the framework or management approach taken by an organization to mitigate and control safety risk in the workplace. Essentially, it refers to the formal set of processes in place by the company that outline the approach taken by the business to manage the safety of its employees and its assets.

This refers to all procedures, policies, and activities that the organization undertakes to bring safety risks within tolerable levels. Safety management systems provide the foundation for risk-based decision-making and allow organizations to ensure safety of operations. 

With a safety management system in place, organizations can regularly monitor and highlight any safety hazards or control risks and run tests of controls to ensure their effectiveness. Businesses adopt safety management systems for three main reasons:

  • Ethical
  • Legal
  • Financial 

Employers have a moral obligation to ensure that they provide a safe and secure environment for employees. In most cases, they must comply with local legislation and standards that outline safety requirements. If an employer takes appropriate measures to make the workplace as safe as possible, it can also reduce legal exposure, and limit financial outlay caused by accidents. 


Create a Safer workforce

Our FREE whitepaper 'Growing Safety Engagement In Your Workplace' will show you how to encourage workplace participation in safety processes, and how to foster a positive safety culture.


Key Elements of a Safety Management System

An effective safety management system improves performance across the board and ensures better safety for workers. But every effective safety management system must have several important elements. These are defined below. 

A Detailed Definition of How the Organization Manages Risk

Many organizations amend operational procedures to mitigate and manage risk. The safety management system should provide a detailed description of the organization’s risk management policies, and what the organization has done to mitigate risk in the workplace.

A Detailed List of Workplace Risk and The Controls in Place

The safety management system should include a comprehensive list of any identified workplace risks and the controls in place to manage them. Any suitable controls can be listed here, and it shows that the organization takes staff safety seriously. This list is regularly updated as new workplace risks are identified and new controls are implemented. 

Effective Communication and Reporting Throughout the Entity

Establishing a safety culture that prioritizes communication and accurate reporting throughout the entity is very important. There should be accountability and reporting across each level in the organization. In case hazards are identified by an employee, they should file a report to their superiors. 

The management then needs to closely review the report and determine if additional controls should be in place to mitigate the risk. This forms the core of effective risk management and allows the company to identify all risks and hazards in the workplace.

Establishing Procedures to Identify and Rectify Non-Compliance Problems

An effective safety management system must have procedures in place to identify any non-compliance issues in the workplace. If there are legislative requirements that the employers must meet to ensure the safety of the staff, the company should establish procedures to identify any non-compliance and correct it right away.

A Program That Focuses on Constant Improvement

It’s imperative for organizations to reinforce the importance of promoting a safety culture throughout. As such, procedures should be in place to allow anyone from within the organization to provide suggestions. A program that encourages improvements and suggestions can help the organization improve safety for its employees. 


Tips for Creating a Safety Management System

Since safety management systems are generally frameworks, organizations need to consider the nature of their work first before creating one. Examples of safety management systems include:

  • ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems
  • Responsible Care framework from the Chemical Industries Association
  • High-level framework for process safety management created by the Energy Institute

But most organizations often create their own frameworks. Here are some simple tips for implementing a safety management system.


Benefits of Implementing a Safety Management System

There are numerous benefits for developing and implementing a safety management system in the workplace. Here are some important ones. 

Reinforces a Safety-First Culture in the Workplace

When management constantly focuses on risk management and spreads awareness about hazards in the workplace, it automatically helps improve the attitudes and behaviors of employees towards safety in the workplace. Employees begin to take workplace safety seriously, which ultimately helps establish and reinforce a safety-first culture.

Improve Risk Management Performance

A safety management system can help you identify hazards in the workplace, evaluate risks to employee safety, the effectiveness of safety controls, and areas where controls are missing. Instead of working with paper, companies now prefer using safety monitoring software to develop checklists or use reporting templates. 

All of this helps greatly in improving the company’s risk management performance.

Minimize Workplace Incidents and Improve Public Image

Companies that invest in safety management systems are able to provide a safer work environment to their employees. This means less workplace incidents and disruptions, and shows that the company cares about its workers’ safety. As a result, the company’s public image also improves, which is often instrumental in attracting top talent. 

Reduces Risks of Fines and Penalties

Businesses working in certain industries have to comply with sector-specific standards and requirements for ensuring worker safety. If a company fails to comply with these rules, they risk heavy fines and penalties. 

A safety management system doesn’t just document the steps that the company has taken to ensure compliance, but it also allows employees to suggest better ways to ensure compliance and to highlight non-compliance issues. This reduces the risk of abnormal losses. 


Create a Safer workforce

Our FREE whitepaper 'Growing Safety Engagement In Your Workplace' will show you how to encourage workplace participation in safety processes, and how to foster a positive safety culture.



Use The EcoOnline Platform to Establish Safety Management Systems

EcoOnline’s EHS software platform is a highly flexible, feature-rich integrated platform that makes it easy to improve safety protocols and establish robust safety management systems throughout the organization. 

The Health and Safety Software comes with different modules that you can use to assess risk, create checklists, templates for reporting, and observe or report hazard and near-misses. It’s a fantastic solution that lets businesses configure and customize safety practices according to the needs of their business.