Tim's Blog

Documentation key to a good Safety Management System


The key to a good safety management system (SMS) is efficient, well laid-out documents that help staff do their job.  Each document should have a purpose and be easily accessible to those who need to use it.


The essential document types in a Safety Management System are procedures, registers, schedules, logs & other records, and forms. Health & safety procedures and registers are perhaps the most difficult documentation, so I will focus my attention on these.



Health & safety procedures


Health & safety procedures are controlled documents that provide a clear sequence of actions to maintain one aspect of your Safety Management System.


Health & safety procedures should:


  • clearly define processes for complying with each legal requirement of ISO 45001,
  • be well-written using an active voice,
  • provide a clear work-flow that’s easy to follow, and
  • only contain detail that’s necessary.


For more tips on how to write effective health & safety procedures, read my post – Creating effective system procedures.





Health & safety registers


Health & safety registers are structured lists of data that can change over time, and are used in conjunction with one or more health & safety procedures. Health & safety registers support the procedures by recording output data or by providing a checklist for use in the procedure.


For example, the Safety Hazards Register is used to record the safety hazards and other information “discovered” in the procedure covering section 6.1.2 of ISO 45001. The register is then used as a checklist, for example, in determining the organisation’s legal requirements (in section 6.1.3).


While restricting write-access to registers is important, they should not be “controlled documents” in the formal sense because changes will be made fairly frequently and formal approval for these changes is not required.


Health & safety registers can be used to store the following information (each in its own register):


  • Safety hazards and risks: including risk assessment outcomes and controls
  • Interested parties: including their needs and expectations
  • Safety objectives: including targets, indicators and improvement programmes
  • Emergency situations: including workplace/occupational safety impacts, controls, emergency procedures
  • SMS documents and records: including location and responsibilities
  • SMS roles, responsibilities and competencies: if not included in role descriptions
  • SMS implementation issues: to capture SMS issues, concerns, improvement ideas for later consideration.





Safety management system schedules, logs & records and forms


Schedules in a safety management system are essential for managing all reoccurring actions needed within the safety system, such as audits, reviews and training.


SMS logs and records are notes which identify when an action was completed, with the details of what was considered and the outcome of the task. This information can be used to fulfil a ISO 45001 legal requirement or as audit evidence.


Forms are used within health & safety procedures for the efficient creation of records or documents. Forms should only request information that is needed, and they should be easy to understand and fill out.



Looking to improve your safety management system’s documentation?


Part of our Safety Management consulting service is helping organisations strengthen their current safety system documentation. We provide guidance and training in creating clear and purposeful documents that help your employees comply with your safety system requirements.


Please get in touch to find out more.