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What is a Safety Management System?

Nathan answers: What is a Safety Management System?

What is a Safety Management System?

Safety Management Systems are a set of processes or procedures that describe how workplace safety is managed within a business. These processes and procedures are typically documented with a Manual, Policies / Procedures and other documentation.

Safety Management Systems assist in risk management through effective:

  • Hazard identification
  • Risk assessment and control
  • Worker consultation
  • Resource allocation

What is a Safety Management System

Elements of a Safety Management System

A Safety Management System provides a standardised and systematic approach to managing workplace safety. Some examples of Safety Management System documentation includes:

This documents can be printed or be managed through a safety app.

What are Safety Management System Policies?

Safety Management System Policies are similar to vision or mission statements. These are short documents that outline an organisation’s commitment to workplace safety.

Safety Policy

Safety policies should be communicated to key stakeholders, during inductions or they can be uploaded to the company intranet or website.

Safety Management System Procedures

Safety Procedures provide a detailed guide on how a process or risk is managed. Examples include Manual Handling Procedures or Health Monitoring Procedures.

Safety Procedure

Safety Management System Registers

WHS Registers data tables (usually built into Microsoft Excel) that are used track vital safety information like document review dates, equipment inspection or licenses and qualifications.

Safety Register

Safety Management System Forms and Tools

Safety Management System Forms and Tools are operational documented used to record information or document a process for example a Safety Inspection or Induction.Safety Management System Inspection

ISO 45001 – The Safety Management System Standard

45001 is the international standard for Safety Management Systems. It is not a legal requirement to comply with the standard, but it provides a best-practice model for safety systems.


Why Company Invest in a Safety Management System?

Safety Management Systems can help prevent injuries and illness within an organisation. Workplace incidents costs the Australian economy over $60billion each year. The costs to business include:

  1. Hospital bills,
  2. Workcover insurances,
  3. Damaged equipment or property, and
  4. Decreased productivity.

The Safety Management System can also provide other benefits, including:

Why Invest in a Safety Management System

Risk Management via a WHSMS

The code of practice “How to manage work health and safety risks” provides risk management requirements for business. In general, WHS risk management has the following 4 steps:

WHS Risk ManagementStep 1 – Identify Hazards

Hazards can be identified by

  • Consultation with:
    • Workers,
    • Managers,
    • Contractors,
  • WHS Inspections,
  • Reviewing the WHS Act, Regulations, Codes of Practice or WHS Alerts, and
  • Incident Reports and Investigations.

Step 2 – Assess Risks

A risk matrix is used to assess the risk in terms of likelihood and consequence and scored from Low to Catastrophic.

What is a Safety Management System?

Step 3 – Implement Controls

Controls are ways that we can protect ourselves and others. Controls can be categorised in order of Most Effective to Least Effective (the hierarchy of controls):

Hierarchy of Controls

Step 4 – Monitor and Review

Controls should be monitored and reviewed to ensure they remain effective. Controls can be monitored and reviewed by:

  • Ongoing supervision,
  • Consultation with workers,
  • WHS inspections,
  • Internal audits, and
  • Analyzing incident and near-miss reports.

How to Develop a WHSMS

Conduct an assessment of  workplace hazards to understand your risks. Review the relevant codes of practice and engage stakeholders, including workers, to develop policies and procedures. Finally implement these measures with effective communication, training, and monitoring processes to ensure continuous improvement.

To build your own Safety Management System, check out our free resources:

Alternatively, to purchase our easy-to-use “off the shelf” WHSMS, contact us.

How Do I Get ISO Certified?

We help organisations get ISO certified. Contact us to learn more.

To become certified to ISO 45001, organizations must go through a certification process that involves an independent assessment of their Safety Management System by a certified third-party auditor. This assessment is designed to verify that the organization’s Safety Management System meets the requirements of the standard.

Once the organization has been certified, they are required to undergo yearly surveillance audits to ensure that they continue to meet the requirements of the standard.

How Can Leaders Demonstrate Commitment?

Leadership start at the top, and so does safety! Leaders can demonstrate commitment by:

WHSMS Leadership

Safety Management System leadership is crucial because it sets the safety culture’s tone, demonstrating that health and safety are prioritized at all organizational levels. Strong leadership in safety can be demonstrated by taking ownership, providing resources and setting objectives.

A Summary of Safety Management Systems

Safety management systems  are a systematic approach to managing safety that aims to:

  • Improve legal compliance
  • Reduce the likelihood of accidents and incidents
  • Continuously improve WHS performance

The Safety Management System contains various documents (policies and procedures) to manage safety in the workplace.


What are the legal requirements for a Safety Management System?

There is generally no legal requirement to have a documented WHSMS (with some exceptions).

What costs are associated with implementing a SMS?

Implementing a Safety Management System typically involves the following costs:

  • Time / salary
  • Purchase of documentation
  • Engaging a safety consultant or manager
  • Training and education

What role do workers play in a Safety Management System?

Identifying hazards, providing feedback, undergoing training and implementing procedures are all undertaken by workers.

How often should a Safety Management System be reviewed?

Typically, most WHS Management Systems are reviewed at least yearly.

Further Reading

What is ISO 45001 Certification and How Do I Get Certified? (Spire Safety) <>

What are the WHS Penalties for Non-Compliance? (Spire Safety) <>

Work Related Deaths Per Year in Australia: Facts and Figures (Spire Safety) <>

Workplace health and safety management system (Comcare) <>

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