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Safety Management Systems

A safety management system (SMS) can be thought of as a, organisational wide approach, implemented by a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), to minimize and reduce the risk of Lost Time and Medically treated injuries occurring in the workplace.
Establishing a systems-based approach to workplace health and safety can assist a PCBU to address their duties under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Legislation. This can be achieved through the identification and assessment of workplace risks and appropriate risk controls measures. Also ensuring a safety culture is present within the company with organizational accountability to ensure that safe systems of work are followed.

Broadly, a SMS provides a focus on improving safety performance through a systematic approach integrating WHS planning, implementation and review. However, a SMS is not simply the existence of forms, processes or policies that outline the various safety aspects considered important by the organisation. Rather, a SMS must give effect to the content of that safety documentation in an ongoing and managed way that reduces risk and improves organisational safety outcomes.

A SMS is then taken as an evolving or continuously improving system which uses feedback to manage and improve safety related issues; it builds on existing health and safety processes, integrates with other management systems and provides for more informed decision making, strengthens corporate culture and demonstrates due diligence under Section 27 of the WHS Act 2012.

A system which relies only on documenting procedures and does not provide mechanisms for ensuring safety performance criteria are identified and achieved is significantly less effective in reducing incidents and protecting the company from potential prosecution under the WHS Legislation.

The key to good workplace health and safety is keeping it simple and proportionate so that people understand why they need to do it that way and it will then make good sense.

There are Standards relating to the design, implementation and on-going maintenance of safety management systems which can be Audited against giving us a continuing mechanism for SMS monitoring and evaluation.

  • AS/NZS 4801:2001 Occupational health and safety management systems—Specification with guidance for use, and
  • AS/NZS 4804:2001 Occupational health and safety management systems—General guidelines on principles, systems and supporting techniques, and
  • ISO 45001:2018 International Standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems.

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