Where do you “house” the company safety management system?


BY Courtney Phillips

Upper management, who is accountable for workplace safety, decides to implement a holistic and systematic approach to managing, and continuously improving, safety…now what? One of the first questions that quickly arises following this decision is:

Where in the company’s organizational structure is the safety management system to be “housed” (or where is its department of residency)?

The appropriate department is one that functions as the safety management system (SMS) champion and is responsible for the successful development, active communication, and supervised implementation of the SMS. Specifically, the department provides company-wide safety management governance and dedicated resources that:

  • Promote workplace safety
  • Sustain the momentum of SMS development and implementation
  • Lead SMS training efforts
  • Assist in the cultivation of a strong safety culture
  • Measure the company’s success in achieving safety objectives

So what company department can best provide such service: integrity, compliance, operations, other?

I would propose that the department that “houses”, steers, and champions the SMS is one that is not silo‑functioning but overarching across all company departments; not necessarily in authority but in relevance and applicability. This is the Health, Safety, and Environmental (HSE) department, a common unit within companies in many industries. The HSE department is responsible for the encouragement, regulation, and enforcement of workplace safety across all areas of the company. I would also suggest that the SMS is the instrument by which the HSE department would use to provide company-wide safety guidance, ensure safety excellence, and drive continuous improvement.

Where in your company does the SMS reside?

If you want to ask an expert a question about your Safety Management System today, please contact us.