According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 1 million occupational injury cases that led to time away from work were reported in 2015. These reports included employees in both the public and private sectors working in a wide range of workplace environments. Whether the workplace is a hospital, on the road, a classroom, or a construction site, the threat of accidental injury or illness is always present. Occupational hazards known to cause accidents have been minimized over time, but the workplace accident statistics provided by the BLS prove further safety improvements need to be made.
Occupational safety experts are dedicated to the minimization, eradication, and regulation of workplace hazards. Organizations, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), employ a variety of experts such as hygienists, ergonomists, and safety technicians to improve nationwide workplace safety.
Improvements such as the implementation and integration of safety management systems, as highlighted by the FAA, into public and private entities creates a proactive framework focused on accident prevention and avoidance. Safety professionals continue to search for alternative safety methods, but maintain the key foundation of safety is prevention.
Safety Management System
The FAA, an agency within the Department of Transportation, regulates civil aviation and ensures airspace safety. Airways are complex, three dimensional routes traversed by numerous aircraft that need constant regulation. To uphold their safety standards, the FAA adopted a safety management system (SMS) – a system that structures safety practices and responsibilities to prevent workplace accidents.
An SMS is a comprehensive management strategy for all things safety related. Responsibilities from decision-making and safety assurance, to safety promotion and education are analyzed and organized into a clear system ensuring smooth operation. An SMS is not exclusive to aviation and can be used within any organization. Furthermore, the system itself requires the users to consider it equally with other management aspects. Put simply, an SMS has the same priority level as any other processes occurring within businesses.
SMS’s are complex but operate through the cooperation of four components. The following are the components and how they help avoid workplace accidents.
Avoiding workplace accidents starts with determining policy. As the legislative component within an SMS, Safety Policy establishes goals and demonstrates an organization’s commitment to safety. It is critical because it’s the tangible framework in which safety objectives can be visualized. Without processes, goals, and documentation in place, workplace accidents are difficult to avoid. Specific Safety Policy duties include: defining safety processes and goals, enforcing management transparency, documenting safety policies and reports, establishing employee safety responsibilities, and promoting open communication. Safety professionals use the policy to guide actions and decisions made to minimize occupational hazards in accordance with chosen goals.
Safety Risk Management (SRM)
The SRM component involves the assessment and control of occupational hazards/risks. Under policy guidelines, safety professionals identify prevalent workplace risks by reviewing accident reports and workplace conditions. However, identification is not enough to avoid further injury or illness. The SRM is actually comprised of its own process in which risks are fully managed. The process begins with an overall workplace description, then hazard identification. Once the hazards are identified, professionals analyze and determine their risk profiles. After they have the necessary information, they create the proper controls or revise previously established controls. The SRM component is where decisions and revisions are made to safety policy for the workplace’s benefit.
The Safety Assurance component cooperates closely with SRM, but evaluates safety strategies instead of hazards. Safety Assurance assesses implemented strategies and policies for effectiveness through audits, tests, and employee reporting. Between it and SRM, hazards and safety strategies are continuously discovered and mitigated respectively, further reducing occupational accidents. Workplaces are always in flux, adapting to incorporate new technologies, employees, strategies, materials, and growth. Safety professionals use Safety Assurance to keep SMSs updated and effective against evolving occupational hazards.
The fourth component, Safety Promotion, focuses on SMS education within the organization. Employee and employer participation is required for an SMS to be successful. A commitment to safety, as designated by the Safety Policy, is company-wide, and nobody is above safety education. Organizations may find it difficult to reduce workplace accidents if nobody is aware of the hazards, strategies, and their responsibilities. Safety professionals use Safety Promotion to train workers on the newest practices, communicate newly discovered hazards, and maintain safety awareness. It could be considered the most important component of an SMS because it disseminates the other component factors and realizes accident-reduction goals.
Safety Management Systems Organize Safety
Together, the four components of an SMS ensure a structured removal of hazards and accident-risk minimization. Safety Policy creates guidelines, SRM assesses risks, Safety Assurance evaluates control strategies, and Safety Promotion advocates a strong safety culture. Safety professionals agree that carefully implemented systems are the best prevention methods against workplace injury or illness.
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