Safety Management Systems – Definition & Examples


Safety Management Systems – Definition & Examples

What is a safety management system?

A safety management system is a holistic, proactive approach to managing the safety of an organisation.

A safety management system encompasses organisational structures, processes, policies and procedures and sets out responsibilities and requirements for the individual members of the organisation.

Safety management systems are designed to be scalable so they can grow with a business as it expands and its safety management needs change.

safety management

ISO 45001 and safety management systems

ISO 45001 is the International Organisation for Standardisation’s standard for safety management systems. This standard can be applied to businesses of any size, scope or industry and is designed to create and implement actionable, sustainable and effective safety management systems with a focus on holistic health and continuous improvement.

Elements of a safety management system

What is a safety management system? Put simply, it is a process dedicated to maintaining and improving the health and safety performance of a workplace. This means taking into account the holistic health and wellbeing of staff including their mental and physical health and safety.

According to ISO 45001, a certified safety management system should include:

  • Strategic direction
  • Leadership and worker participation
  • Risk assessment
  • Resources and support
  • Opportunities
  • Performance evaluation
  • Ongoing Improvement

elements of a safety management system

Strategic Direction

An ISO 45001 compliant safety management system must be aligned with the organisation’s overall strategic direction. A safety management system doesn’t act as a stand-alone process but as an integral element of the entire business’s operation. This involves identifying barriers to achieving your intended safety objectives and determining stakeholder expectations around safety.

Leadership and Worker Participation

It’s the responsibility of a business’s leadership staff to establish, implement and continually improve the safety management system. It’s also their job to ensure active worker participation across the board. This involves providing all necessary training, resources and time needed to keep employees actively engaged and participating in OHS requirements and getting involved in consultation.

Read more about encouraging team members to participate in workplace safety.

Risk Assessment and Planning

Identifying, assessing and mitigating hazards to workplace safety is at the core of a safety management system. Along with risk assessment, businesses should also look for potential opportunities which could help them improve their OHS performance. Risk assessment and planning encompasses hazard identification, risk assessment, controls, legal requirements and objective setting.

risk management

Resources and Support

Making a plan and conducting risk assessments is only the beginning. Your safety management objectives must be realistic and achievable. For this to happen your safety management system must receive the required support and resources it needs to operate. This can include budgetary, training and staffing requirements.


An ISO 45001 compliant safety management system must take into account the impacts of change. Both planned and unplanned changes to your business can impact your safety management needs and produce both unforeseen hazards and new opportunities. Your business needs to be aware of changes and be on the lookout for opportunities to improve.

Performance evaluation

A business’s safety management system must be evaluated continually to ensure that it’s working to its full capacity and achieving its objectives. The system should include processes for assessing staff consultation and participation, risk assessment, hazard identification and planning, and operational control.

Ongoing Improvement

A successful risk management system focuses on eliminating the root causes of safety hazards, rather than responding to safety issues in a reactive way. Through ongoing improvement and continual removal of non-conformity issues businesses can work towards achieving and exceeding their safety objectives.


Safety management systems examples

There are a number of different types of safety management systems available to businesses. Traditionally safety management was all paper-based but many businesses have now turned to software and cloud based safety management systems to manage their safety compliance needs.

Hard copy safety management systems

Safety management systems were traditionally written and kept as hard copy documents. The information was either handwritten or typed then filed away and stored. This method has obvious disadvantages when compared with electronic safety management systems as hard copies can be easily lost or mishandled and any trends or data analysis would require tedious collation and examining of physical documents.

Software-based safety management systems

Many companies use purpose-built safety management software. This provides a central interface for staff to use and allows for the electronic management, entry and storage of safety information including policies, processes and incident reports. Some large companies develop their own in-house safety management software while smaller companies may buy the software from an external supplier.

Cloud based safety management systems

Cloud based safety management systems are increasingly the preferred method of safety management system for both large and small businesses. This involves subscribing to an external, cloud based management platform and storing all management system documentation and processes on a third-party system. One of the main benefits of using this type of system is the scalability of a cloud based management system, which thanks to its software-free construction can be expanded to suit your business’s growing needs. Cloud based management systems can also reduce your business costs with increased security, automated updates, enhanced accuracy and advanced analytical capabilities.
Hybrid safety management systems

Some businesses opt for a hybrid safety management system which involves combining two or more management solutions. Information may be collected via both hard copy and electronic data with software used to analyse and maintain the safety management system.

Professional ISO 45001 safety management systems

At BusinessBasics we specialise in developing and implementing world-class ISO-compliant safety management systems. If your business is in need of a safety management system that will save you time and money we’re here to help. Get in touch today to learn more.