What is a safety management system?

What is a safety management system?

A safety management system (SMS) for a mine is a tool that assists mine operators to systematically achieve and maintain standards for managing safety and health. It brings together the policies and procedures required to effectively mitigate (i.e. lessen the severity) the risks associated with the mining operations.

Why is an SMS important?

An SMS allows the mine operator to demonstrate the effective management of health and safety on site to:

  • employees, contractors and others working at the mine site
  • the regulator
  • an external organisation when seeking certification
  • management when assessing the mine systems against recognised industry standards.

To maximise its effectiveness, the SMS needs to be:

  • a documented system
  • be easily understood
  • accessible.

The risks managed at all mining operations are dynamic and varied. The SMS is used to ensure these risks are considered and strategies are documented so adequate controls are implemented for the life of the mine.

While all mines have safety- and risk-related policies, plans and procedures in place, the SMS ties these elements in a single integrated system.

Components of an SMS

Systematic approach

Australian Standard AS 4804 Occupational health and safety management systems - General guidelines on principles, systems and supporting techniques describes a systematic approach that can assist mines to both meet the minimum regulatory requirements and lead to sustained improvement in safety and risk management  performance.

The guidelines can assist an organisation to establish its own SMS or improve an existing SMS. They do not prescribe the type, format or style of SMS that should be used, and are aimed at a mine of any size or type.

AS 4804 Occupational health and safety management systems - General guidelines on principles, systems and supporting techniques is available from Standards Australia.

Key elements to consider

Some key elements of a mining SMS that may be included are listed below.

  • Management framework
    • health and safety systems framework
    • sustainability
    • corporate policies
  • Leadership and accountability
    • roles and accountabilities
    • procedural requirements
    • statutory appointments and positions
  • Planning and performance
    • health and safety objectives and targets
    • performance measurement
    • monitoring and review
  • Implementation
    • licenses and permits
    • document and record control
  • Compliance and document control
    • maintaining documents such as standard operating procedures (SOPs), safe work instructions (SWIs) or safe work method statements (SWMSs)
  • Operational risk management
    • safety in design
    • change management
    • risk assessment tools
    • workplace inspections
  • Communication and consultation
    • safety and health communication
    • safety and health committees
  • Behavioral safety, awareness and competence
    • training plan and matrix
    • fitness for work
    • inductions
  • Systems of work
    • SOP, SWI or SWMS development and use
    • Job safety analysis (JSA) or job hazard analysis (JHA)
    • contractor management
  •  Incident investigation
    • incident reporting
    • investigation tools
    • corrective action management
  • Emergency management
    • emergency response plan
    • injury management
    • crisis management
  • Quality assurance, measurement and evaluation
    • audit criteria

Related information

Below is related information for SMS.

AS/NZ 4801 Occupational health and safety management systems - Specification with guidance for use is available from Standards Australia.

The NSW Department of Trade and Investment has further information about safety management systems in mining (draft Code of Practice).

The safety management systems in mining (draft Code of Practice) above, was released as part of public comment on the draft NSW Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulation 2014 (WHS (Mines) Regulation). The code provides practical guidance for mining operators when establishing and implementing a SMS for a mine. It was developed in consultation with Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum.