Implementing a Safety Management System to Drive DOT Compliance and Fleet Safety

Webinar Recap
Jun 28, 2022 12:15 PM ET
Blog

When your fleet safety program is compliant with applicable regulatory requirements, you may be in a good position to build on this base by looking to other areas where you can improve efficiency, employee morale, overall safety culture, operations performance, and safety results. Implementing a Safety Management System (SMS) is just the right method to make these improvements.

Maintaining a positive safety culture can become the norm within your organization when you implement an SMS to identify systemic risks and focus on continuous improvement.

In a webinar hosted by Antea Group, Chris Meyer leads a conversation with two of our leading health and safety consultants, Chantel Hinson, and Bethany Brown, to describe the components of an SMS, how to implement them in a manner that works for your organization, the benefits of implementation, and why implementing an SMS is an important step in improving fleet safety and compliance.

If you missed the live broadcast, you can still watch the full webinar on-demand in our webinar library.

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What is a Safety Management System?

A safety management system is a performance-based approach to managing operational risk and improving culture. “A safety management system really becomes a safety culture over time as key elements are improved,” shared Hinson.

Why Implement a Safety Management System?

Historically we have understood that around 90% of incidents are due to unsafe acts, which means 10% are attributed to unsafe conditions. This thinking tends to lead to blame being placed on people and not always getting to the root of why an incident occurred. Due to the increase in regulations, we have seen incident rates flatline, however serious incidents, injuries, and fatalities have increased. An SMS can help to improve safety over time and address some of the factors contributing to the increase in serious incidents and fatalities by getting to the root of what is causing incidents at your organization. These factors can include, for example, complacency, outdated training, and/or lack of proper incident reporting and investigation.

By implementing an SMS, you are shifting your organization from a compliance-based approach to a system-based approach. Where a compliance-based approach is driven by regulators, often creates silos, and offers a linear view of failures, a system-based approach is driven internally and aims to create a risk awareness beyond just compliance and tackle systemic risks.

To be clear, a system approach should not replace a compliance approach. Compliance acts as the base, the bare minimum that an organization should be doing, and the system approach can build on that foundation to create a safety culture.

Benefits of Adopting an SMS Approach

One study shows that companies who utilized an SMS saw 46% fewer incidents a year than those who did not. Fostering a culture of safety can also help employees feel safer and well taken care of, leading to better retention.

Not to mention, there is a lot of overlap between SMS and ESG strategies. So, if your company is already working on an ESG strategy, you can tie the two programs together – helping increase efficiency and lower costs.

10 Key Steps for Implementation

When implementing an SMS, there are 10 key steps to help guide you. When utilizing these steps, you should follow the Plan-Do-Check-Act method.

“The Plan-Do-Check-Act concept is the core of many effective management systems,” shared Chantel Hinson. This system is a continuous cycle that encourages the creation of strategies and plans and guides their execution, checks them for quality, and helps create the next generation of plans. The Plan-Do-Check-Act system can be used not only for EHS management systems but across many operations within the organization. Learn more about Plan–Do–Check–Act here.

1. Planning

Every organization will take a slightly different approach to implementing an SMS – the one constant across organizations should be a good plan.

During the planning process, you should establish the context of the organization and map internal and external stakeholders. This is also a good time to conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). From here, lay the framework for your SMS and begin to document a plan that will meet your requirements.

2. Process Evaluation

Take a look at your existing resources including policies, procedures, and training. Identify what elements are already in place and where there are gaps that need to be addressed.

3. Management Commitment

As we mentioned earlier, often the blame for incidents is placed on employees. To get true management commitment, you need to get to a place where leaders are seeking to understand rather than assign blame. Embrace errors and use them as a learning opportunity to continue improving your safety culture.

4. Proactive Risk Evaluation

Begin to move from focus from incidents that have already occurred to identifying precursors that could lead to future incidents and begin to manage these risks. You can do this by describing a process, identifying the hazards in the process, and begin to assess the risks proactively. From here, analyze the process and find measures to control that risk.

5. Develop KPI’s and Transparency

In order to effectively determine whether an SMS is effective, you need to set key performance indicators (KPI’s) that align with your goals. KPI’s should follow the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound.

Utilize the KPI’s you set to evaluate progress and adjust your plan as needed in order to achieve your safety goals.

6. Operational Control Development and Implementation

In order to ensure the management system is protected from failure, operational controls must be implemented. Implementing controls that ensure change management, purchasing and outsourcing, and contractor management processes are in line with your management system goals will help protect your assets and ensure quality maintenance, and help ensure compliance across the lifecycle of your operations.

Some of your operational controls can include:

  • Compliance with rules and applicable laws
  • Asset maintenance and integrity
  • Contractors and suppliers

7. Accountability and Engagement

Getting engagement, not only from leadership but from all employees, will determine the success of your SMS. Feedback from employees should be taken into account when developing goals and training. Employees understand the risks they are facing on the job and can help to identify opportunities for improvement.

8. Monitor Progress

As with any initiative, you should closely monitor progress. Collecting data, following incident reports, and conducting internal audits can help you see the progress from implementing an SMS.

9. Continuous Improvement

Implementing an SMS is not just a one-and-done deal. You should strive to continue improving and developing that safety culture at your organization. Remember that even minor changes can lead to significant improvements.

10. Adjust the Plan

An SMS is a live process and changes can and should be made whenever needed. When you identify a need, propose an adjustment and communicate the need for the change. Once implemented, monitor the results and continue to adjust as needed. Remember – Plan-Do-Check-Act!

Start Driving Safety Today

When done correctly, the management system approach will take your company beyond compliance by rooting out systemic risks. There are real benefits to management systems –not only will it keep you in compliance, but it can improve the overall culture.

Implementation starts with a solid plan to improve culture and realize continuous improvement over time. You can get started today by simply determining where you are in the process right now. Identify what elements of your safety program are already working and prioritize areas that need improvement. From here you can start creating your plan for implementing a safety management system.

If you feel stuck or need advice on how to get started, reach out to our team of experts today.

About Antea Group

Antea®Group is an environment, health, safety, and sustainability consulting firm. By combining strategic thinking and multidisciplinary perspectives with technical expertise, we do more than effectively solve client challenges; we deliver sustainable results for a better future. We work in partnership with and advise many of the world’s most sustainable companies to address ESG-business challenges in a way that fits their pace and unique objectives. Our consultants equip organizations to better understand threats, capture opportunities and find their position of strength. Lastly, we maintain a global perspective on ESG issues through, not only our work with multinational clients, but also through our sister organizations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and as a founding member of the Inogen Alliance.