What is Safety Management System (SMS)?

Have you ever heard the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure”? Well, that couldn’t be more true when it comes to safety process management in organizations. Studies have revealed that for every dollar invested in safety initiatives, companies can see a return of anywhere from $2 to $6. As a Safety Auditor with ten years of experience, I have had firsthand experience with different organizations’ safety management systems. In my blog, I will share my knowledge and expertise on this topic to help you understand the core of safety management systems and why they are essential to building a safe workplace culture. 

In this blog, you will learn:

  • The concept of a safety management system, its purpose, examples, and more
  • Different components of a safety management system and the 12 elements that come under them
  • How safety management system software can be the gamechanger for organizations looking to strengthen their SMS

So, let’s get the ball rolling.

What is Safety Management System?

A Safety Management System (SMS) is a way for organizations to keep their employees safe and secure. It’s like a blueprint for safety – a set of guidelines, procedures, and processes that help identify and control potential hazards. By having an SMS in place, organizations can reduce the chances of accidents and incidents happening and keep everyone safe. It’s just one of the ways companies take care of their employees and ensure they are working in the best possible environment.

What is the Purpose of a Safety Management System?

The primary purpose of an occupational health and safety management system is to make sure that everyone in an organization stays safe and healthy. It shows that the company is doing everything possible to protect its employees, customers, environment, and community from safety hazards. 

This includes checking for potential hazards, looking into any accidents or incidents, teaching employees how to stay safe, and checking to see if the company is doing everything to comply with workplace safety laws and regulations. 

All of this helps ensure that the organization meets its legal and ethical responsibilities and that everyone stays safe at all times. It’s just one of the ways companies look out for their people and ensure they are in the best possible environment.

What are the Early Examples of Safety Management System?

DuPont was one of the early leaders in process safety management and integrated company-wide process safety management software. This American chemical company established a formal safety program in the 1920s. They were among the first companies in the United States to have regular safety inspections, employee training, and a mindset of always looking for ways to improve. DuPont showed that keeping their employees safe was a top priority, and they set an excellent example for other companies.

Other industries that were first to implement safety management systems were:  

Aviation Industry

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented an SMS program in the 1990s to improve safety in the aviation industry.

Mining Industry

The mining industry also had early examples of SMS, with companies implementing safety programs in the early 20th century to address the high number of accidents and fatalities in the industry.

Construction Industry

Similarly, the construction industry also had early examples of SMS, with companies implementing safety programs in the early 20th century to address the high number of accidents and fatalities in the industry.

Oil and Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry also had early examples of SMS, with companies implementing safety programs in the early 20th century to address the high number of accidents and fatalities in the industry.

What are the Components of a Safety Management System?

There are four components of a Safety Management System. These are

Safety Policy and Objectives

A safety policy is a statement that outlines an organization’s commitment to safety and the steps it will take to protect the health and well-being of its employees, customers, and the community. It sets the direction for the organization’s safety efforts and guides decision-making and safety-related actions.

On the other hand, safety objectives are specific, measurable, and time-bound targets that an organization sets to achieve its safety policy. These objectives help to ensure that the organization is making progress toward its safety goals and provide a way to measure the effectiveness of the SMS.

Together, safety policy and objectives are like a roadmap, they help organizations define where they want to go in terms of safety and how they plan to get there, and it gives everyone in the organization a shared understanding of what safety means and how to achieve it.

Safety Risk Management

It identifies, assesses, and controls potential hazards and risks in a safety management system. The goal is to minimize the likelihood and impact of accidents and incidents through proper accident analysis and prevention and ensure the safety of employees, customers, and the general public. 

This process involves analyzing hazards, assessing the level of risk associated with those hazards, implementing controls Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA) to mitigate or eliminate the safety risks, and continually monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of those controls through safety audit software and regular reviewing and updating the safety management system keeping the environment safe and secure for everyone with an EHS software.

Safety Assurance

It ensures all safety measures and procedures are followed to protect individuals and property from potential hazards. It is an essential aspect of a safety management system, designed to identify, assess, and control risks to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved.

Safety assurance includes regular inspections and audits, training and education, and ongoing monitoring to ensure that all safety procedures are followed and that any identified risks are addressed. Overall, safety assurance helps create a safe and secure environment for everyone, which is why it is an integral part of any SMS.

Safety Promotion

Safety promotion educates and encourages individuals and organizations to adopt safe behaviors and practices to prevent accidents and injuries. It is a critical component of a safety management system and involves using various tools and techniques to raise awareness and understanding of potential hazards and risks. 

This can include training programs, safety campaigns, and motivational strategies to encourage people to take responsibility for their safety and others. Overall, safety promotion is about creating a culture in which people feel empowered to make safe choices and take proactive measures to protect themselves and those around them.

What are the Elements of a Safety Management System?

There are 12 elements of a safety management system that come under the four components we discussed above. These are: 

Safety Policy and Objectives

1. Management Commitment

Management commitment is the foundation of a successful safety management system. The management team is fully committed to creating a safe, productive, healthy work environment for all company staff and workers. This includes setting safety goals, allocating resources, and providing the necessary support to ensure safety is a top priority. 

A management team committed to safety will lead by example and ensure that security is integrated into all aspects of the organization’s operations. This includes regular training and education, ongoing monitoring, and actively encouraging employees to report any safety concerns they may have. 

2. Safety Accountability and Responsibilities

Safety accountability and responsibilities refer to the roles and duties of individuals and organizations in ensuring the safety of themselves and others. It means that everyone is responsible for their safety and those of others around them. This includes following safety procedures, identifying and reporting hazards, and taking appropriate actions to prevent accidents and injuries.

Additionally, organizations are responsible for providing a safe working environment for their employees and ensuring that their products and services are safe for the public.

3. Appointment of Key Safety Personnel

By appointing key safety personnel, organizations can ensure that safety is a top priority and that everyone is aware of their responsibilities when it comes to safety. These individuals are responsible for leading and managing the safety program, identifying and assessing potential hazards, and implementing appropriate controls to reduce or eliminate risks. They also play a vital role in providing training and education for employees and ensuring that safety procedures are followed daily. 

4. Coordination of Emergency Response Planning

It is about ensuring everyone is on the same page when dealing with an emergency. It involves bringing together different departments, organizations, and agencies to develop a plan to help them respond effectively and efficiently to emergencies. 

This includes identifying potential hazards, assessing risks, and developing procedures for dealing with different emergencies. Coordination also involves regular drills and exercises to test the plan and ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency. By working together and staying prepared, we can ensure that we are ready to respond quickly and effectively to any emergency that may arise, keeping everyone safe and secure.

5. SMS Documentation

Documentation is essential to any Safety Management System (SMS). It helps to ensure that all safety procedures and policies are followed and provides a record of all safety-related activities. 

This Documentation can include safety procedures, training records, incident reports, and risk assessments. Having accurate and up-to-date Documentation is crucial for identifying potential hazards and ensuring that all safety policies are in place to protect individuals and property. 

Safety Risk Management

6. Hazard Identification

Identifying occupational hazards helps companies comply with federal, state, and local laws related to managing hazardous materials and energy, protecting against fines and penalties.

By identifying hazards early on, we can take steps to eliminate or control them before they can cause harm, which ultimately reduces occupational injuries. The hazard identification process can involve various methods, such as inspections, audits, and assessments, and it often requires input from multiple people, such as employees, safety experts, and government regulators. 

7. Safety Risk Assessment and Mitigation

Safety risk assessment and mitigation are about identifying potential hazards and minimizing the associated risks. This safety process begins with identifying potential hazards, such as equipment failure or human error, and then evaluating those hazards’ likelihood and potential impact. 

Once the risks have been identified, steps can be taken to mitigate them, such as implementing safety procedures, providing training, or upgrading equipment. The goal of safety risk assessment and mitigation is to create a safer environment for everyone involved by reducing the potential for accidents and injuries. 

Safety Assurance

8. Safety Performance Monitoring and Measurement

Safety performance monitoring and measurement are essential to any safety management system. It involves regular monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of safety procedures and processes to ensure that they work as intended and effectively reduce risks and protect individuals and property. 

This can include tracking incident rates, conducting safety audits and inspections, and gathering feedback from employees and other stakeholders. By monitoring and measuring safety performance, organizations can identify areas where improvements are needed, track progress over time, and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that safety standards are being met. 

9. The Management of Change

Managing change in a safety management system is all about ensuring that any changes made to the system are controlled and safe. It’s essential to have a process to evaluate and assess the potential risks associated with any changes before they are implemented. The safety management team should also communicate the changes to all relevant parties and ensure that any necessary training or education is provided. By managing change in this way, we can ensure that the safety of everyone involved is not compromised and that the system continues to function effectively.

10. Continuous Improvement of the SMS

Continuous improvement is a crucial aspect of any safety management system. It involves regularly reviewing and evaluating the system, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing changes to make the system even more effective in protecting individuals and property from potential hazards. This process helps to ensure that the system is always up-to-date and relevant and that new risks are identified and addressed on time. 

Safety Promotion

11. Training and Education

Training and education are crucial components of any safety management system. They ensure that everyone involved understands the risks and hazards associated with their work and knows how to perform their tasks safely. We can help reduce the risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities by providing ongoing training and education. 

12. Safety Communication

It is an essential part of a safety management system, as it ensures that everyone is informed about the potential hazards and risks in the workplace and knows how to respond to them. Effective safety communication involves both the sharing of information and the active engagement of employees in the safety process.

This includes regular safety meetings and effective safety training sessions, clearly posted signs and guidelines, and open lines of communication between management and employees. By encouraging open and transparent communication, everyone can work together to identify and address potential hazards and respond to emergencies. 

How can Organizations Streamline their Safety Management Processes?

Organizations can streamline their safety processes with safety management system software. A Safety Management System software is a handy digital tool that helps organizations keep their workplace safe and sound. 

It comes packed with features that make managing safety a breeze, such as incident reporting, hazard identification, risk assessment, and compliance management. It helps organizations streamline safety-related tasks and keep everything organized and in check, making safety management super easy and efficient.

Incident Reporting and Management

Allows employees to report safety incidents and hazards on any device, be it their mobiles, tabs, or laptops, and for managers to track and investigate them.

Risk Assessment and Management

It helps organizations identify and evaluate potential hazards and risks and to implement control measures to mitigate them.

Compliance Management

Allows organizations to track and manage compliance with safety regulations and standards.

Training and Education Management

Allows organizations to manage effective safety training of employees and education programs.

Safety Performance Tracking and Reporting

Allows organizations to track and report on safety performance metrics, such as incident rates and compliance levels, with the help of interactive dashboards and automated reporting mechanisms.

Safety Checklists and Inspections

Allow organizations to conduct regular safety inspections and audits to identify areas for improvement.

By using digital safety audit checklists, organizations can improve their ability to identify and manage risks, increase efficiency, and enhance their safety performance.


In a nutshell, the safety management system is like a GPS navigation system for a car. Just like a GPS that helps drivers to navigate to their destination, safety management system and software do the same by assisting organizations in navigating the complex world of workplace safety by providing them with guidance on how to adjust their safety processes and procedures to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. An SMS provides employees with a clear understanding of their safety responsibilities so that they can take the necessary steps to keep themselves and others safe. 

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