6 elements of an effective safety management system

By Joanna Weekes on November 20th, 2017
  1. Safety Management
  2. Health & Safety Training

There are so many aspects to creating and maintaining a safe working environment that sometimes it’s easy to get lost in it all. To truly succeed in creating a safe place of work, the key is to develop and implement an effective safety management system.

A safety management system combines all the different elements in your workplace that need attention to ensure you provide a safe working environment for everyone who enters it.

Safety management systems make health and safety an integral part of your business’s core operations. By designing, developing and implementing an effective safety management system, you will have methods for managing reporting, responsibilities, planning and resourcing to create a safer workplace.

Safety management systems have six elements:

  • a safety plan;
  • policies, procedures and processes;
  • training and induction;
  • monitoring;
  • supervision; and
  • reporting.

Remember, it is not enough to simply adopt a satisfactory safety management system. You must also actively implement that system in your workplace. To do this, you must ensure that:

  • workers comply with procedures and instructions;
  • workers are appropriately trained; and
  • workers are subject to ongoing supervision.

1. Safety plan

A safety plan is a strategic action plan that forms part of the business plan. It analyses the current and prospective risk for a company and charts how the risks will be eradicated and controlled over a calendar period (the safety plan must have a budget).

This plan will ensure that there is a governance structure within your company that ensures every worker clearly understands their safety obligations (and how to comply) and is accountable to carry out those obligations.

2. Policies, procedures and processes

Policies, procedures and processes include all safety paper infrastructures within your company. This paperwork will describe all safety behaviour, expectations, record-keeping, incident reporting, and incident notification documentation.

3. Training and induction

Depending on the nature of your workplace (whether it is low-risk or high-risk), everyone who enters your workplace should receive training on:

  • the rules of your company;
  • the rules of the site; and
  • the rules of the location they are visiting.

The training content will depend on the level of risk the person is exposed to.

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4. Monitoring

Your obligations to monitor your workplace depend on circumstances and need. Always consider the level of risk. The higher the risk, the more frequent and detailed the monitoring needs to be.

Other times when monitoring will be necessary include:

  • to ensure that all risk has been covered by a new risk assessment that has been carried out due to a change in process, e.g. the installation of new workstations; and
  • when an investigation takes place following an incident.

5. Supervision

The only way to ensure your workers are carrying out their safety obligations is to have adequate supervision.

The level of supervision required in your workplace will increase if the level of safety control put in place to reduce a risk is low, i.e. the less effective the control measure used, the higher the level of supervision necessary.

6. Reporting

The governance structure of your company needs safety reporting at all levels, not just at board level.

Your workers need to know what safety looks like – what’s going right and what’s going wrong. This can only occur when they receive safety feedback from you, e.g. how many hazards were identified, the risk levels associated with those hazards and what control measures were implemented.


You can find much more information about these elements of a safety management system in the Health & Safety Handbook if you are a subscriber. If you are not yet a subscriber, find out more by clicking here to take the 14-day free trial.





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