Example safety management system
So what is a safety management system?
At a high level, safety management is managing your operational activities through processes, principles, frameworks and tools to best help prevent hazards, accidents and injuries - and minimise risks.
In order to 'manage' safety, companies employ a safety management system, which can take the form of a number of different approaches. The goal of the safety management system is the same as the general definition of safety management:
The key components of a comprehensive safety management system
Safety management systems vary in size and complexity, depending upon the size and complexity of your operations, but every organisation has some form of a safety management system and they all have the same overarching goal.
While the size and complexity of your safety management system will naturally vary, the components should stay largely the same - and reflect the scale stated earlier. The bigger you get, the more process and policy you may build into your operations.
But, the key components of any safety management system are:
There are a number of subcategories within each of these categories, but they will largely fall within these 'buckets'.
So what does this look like in practice? Well, it can look like a number of different things. For our purposes today, we are going to look at a consolidated safety management system which is built around a software platform. There are some components which fall outside of this software, but overall, most of the processes or outputs of your safety management system can be pushed or pulled out of an example safety management system which you see below.
An example of a consolidated safety management system
Safety policy and objectives
Safety policies are written down built out in the forms and documents you keep in your internal management system - which in the industries and construction, usually manifest themselves in forms which are filled out on site - including permits to work and safety reports - as well as safety management documents like risk and safety registers.
In the past, many of these forms were paper-based and pinned to a wall, a modern safety management system will make these entirely digital (unless you need a physical copy) and accessible directly on site with a site safety app and in the office via cloud-based software.
When these forms need to be filled out and why may live in a separate safety document, but the digital forms largely take precedent over and inform what needs to be done when the safety policy is triggered via a hazard or incident.
e.g someoone in the field will immediately open a safety report when an incident happens, and the safety report will guide them through the company's safety reporting policy in the form of required fields and conditional form logic.
Safety objectives may be verbally discussed or they may live on seperate documents, but you will most certainly manage and measure these objectives with your safety management software - as you will see.
Note below that the hazard report is one of your safety policies executed in the form of a safety report - which has been exported from the management system to be shared with an internal or external party.
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Safety risk management
Where a smart safety management system really comes into it's own in terms of flexibility and power is in the safety risk management phase. This phase is all about:
- Hazard identification
- Risk assessment and mitigation
Your safety management system (along with the people conducting these activities) should take care of this entire portion of your safety process.
In construction and industrial verticals, hazard identification takes place at site level - where the hazards are. And there are a lot of them on sites, with the always-present danger of heavy equipment and machinery, suppliers, uneven ground and others.
Getting these hazards identified and prioritised is the job of your people and your safety management system.
What that looks like in practice is when a person on site identifies a hazard, they pull out their mobile or tablet and open up a hazard identification form.
Once they have filled this form in, the details and information are automatically piped into the management system, where safety teams, management or whoever needs to action the hazard is notified and informed. From here, they have all of the detail and information they need rectify the hazard before it becomes an issue.
Risk assessment and mitigation is equally important. Your safety management system should act as a risk assessment planning and execution tool. You can create and maintain your project risk registers in the management system, as well as manage the day-to-day risk assessment activities.
On top of that, more peripheral risk mitigation activities such as pre-starts and inductions can also be built into the system.
Safety assurance is the process by which you can continuously improve your safety management system and make concrete claims and assurances to other parties and employees about how safety is managed and what outcomes should look like.
But in order to make improvements, you must be able to measure.
Your safety management system should also have the capability to measure what is happening, help you understand where and what is going right and wrong, and to give you insights about how to improve.
Most safety management systems fall short here, giving you high level data and 'count' analytics which don't really tell you anything.
But managing those prior safety components with safety management software bring your safety management system to the next level. Because you have standardised and real-time data being pulled from your safety forms and risk assessments, your system can aggregate this data and display it through real-time dashboards and charts.
With this real-time and accurate data, you can understand what is happening, and guarantee continuous improvement to your people, parties and auditors.
Using a smart safety management system, you can conduct proper internal investigations, you can manage change, and you can monitor safety performance and measure everything properly.
Safety training and education as well as safety communication fall under the category of safety promotion. This piece of your safety management system is also made simple once you get the other pieces right.
Educating and training new or existing employees in your safety practices is as easy as onboarding them into the software, where they can get immediate access to all of the forms and documents they will use to monitor and capture safety detail. Then constantly communicating safety information becomes less important, as the day-to-day is taken care of.
Safety communication can then move into more relevant areas like pre-starts and general project safety discussions, because the day-to-day processes are taken care of the safety management system.