Image: SMS services today can help to identify hazards and report incident as well (Source)
Creating and maintaining a safe workplace is a vital component of the operations of any organisation. To competently protect workers, their health and the environments they conduct their work in, both large and small organisations need to be armed with a precisely tuned Safety Management System (SMS).

With an effective and efficient SMS, organisations can manage safety programs, identify hazards, report incidents, and be progressive in controlling risk, especially when it comes to regulatory compliance and sizing concerns. However, making the crucial decision to either design and develop an internal SMS, or instead purchase a third-party SMS service, is one that many organisations face as a challenge when adhering to employment Health & Safety and (HSE) standards.

In this article we shall explore the options, benefits and factors that business managers should consider before deciding whether to design or purchase an SMS.

OPTION #1 - Designing an Internal Safety Management System

Considered as the more traditional solution, internal safety management systems are designed to either eliminate or mitigate the worker/environment interface through a number of different processes. Adoption normally involves creating new staff roles or departments, to ably manage and maintain internal H&S standards at the different levels.

The general approach to modern safety management can be described to emphasise regulatory compliance and motivation programs during the interaction of three primary components of the workplace.

A) Work Environment - the location where workers are exposed to risk. Companies must consider the geographic location, existing environmental conditions, the different hazards present such as moving equipment or high pressure systems. These conditions are then assessed for cost effective controls to be put in place to mitigate exposures.
B) People – are either at risk or their behaviours are capable of putting others at risk. A fundamental component of the safety program is making people aware of what risks exist, getting them to self identify and mitigate the risks. Programs will involve education, assessment, verification, and observation.
However, a challenge here is being able to understand and effectively manage inter-relationships between individuals, groups, supervision, and company work culture across the various levels and departments of a company.
C) Management Systems – are formalised work practices which outline roles and responsibilities. They necessitate accountability to guarantee programs are implemented effectively and where continual advancement is taking place.
The interaction of these three components usually relies on the assumption that a company is only able to identify what needs to be established to prevent, mitigate, and control both the work location and the people.
Organisations that choose to design their own internal SMS will, thus, enjoy some the following benefits:
  • Consistency: With a dedicated in-house SMS, there ideally will be more time and personnel to analyse and study the way workers operate, as well as easy provision of training for the staff.
  • New Safety Training Approaches: Through the help of safety management systems vendors, organisations can recruit trained HSE professionals that follow and examine safety in the workplace in new and improved ways. With an on-staff H&S consultant, a company is able to stay up to date on work methods and simple day-to-day tasks.
  • Conformity With Company Beliefs: Hiring in-house SMS staff presents the advantage of having someone who understands the company's brand, and aligns their job with the company and regulated H&S standards.

OPTION #2 - Purchasing a Safety Management System (Software)

Companies that choose to purchase an SMS, are essentially choosing to outsource their SMS to a third-party service vendor, commonly with a running software package. The choice to adopt an SMS software empowers safety officers and employees in proactively keeping the workplace safe and compliant with H&S regulations through powerful customizable inspections, real-time corrective actions, efficient recordkeeping, and insightful analytics.

Other additional benefits of purchasing an SMS include.

  • Reduced Time and Costs: With an SMS, the work-hours and costs dedicated to managing safety, document handling, and paperwork are cut-down by automated services which makes the overall process more efficient. Likewise, an efficient SMS reduces expenditure, with each $1 invested in safety saving up to $3 in accident costs.
  • Higher Quality Data: SMS software improves data collection and significantly enhances data handling with seamless information gathering. Similarly, their resourceful visualisation tools make auditing, reporting and tracking effortless.

    If certain processes are automated using an online safety/compliance management system, errors can be reduced, making the entire process more consistent and error-free.

  • Streamlined Communication: SMS software provides a centralised platform where all H&S assessment, data, reports, etc, are all readily accessible. Everybody has access to the same information at the same time ensuring that employees are better equipped to manage incidents or the risk of any situation.
  • Secure Data Storage: SMS software securely stores safety and compliance data, in a manner that allows for easy retrieval for older staff information or easy for onboarding new staff to the H&S standards.
  • Flexible resources: Adoption of an SMS software service creates an adjustable workload that allows for better resource allocation in response to business changes or as a response to an urgent need that does not support long-term additional staffing. For instance, companies that need to comply with different changes in regulations across the local, state, federal or country, can spend resources on training in only the branches in the regions where the changes are taking effect soonest.
  • Improved employee safety and welfare compliance: With the SMS software approach to H&S compliance management, you can measure employee knowledge on safety-related issues and assess level of compliance on an individual basis and apply targeted training sessions.

How To Decide: Designing In-house SMS vs Purchasing Third-party SMS?

For any business, the decision between designing an internal in-house SMS solution, and purchasing a third-party SMS will ultimately depend on 3 main considerations.
  • Cost
  • Availability of skilled resources
  • Business obligations

#1 - The Cost of Adopting an SMS

In the past, internal IT resources & safety experts designed, built and maintained the in-house SMS. However, given today's economic climate, this is not sustainable for most organisations which already view their IT departments as time & cost centres that are constantly in service to all other company departments.

Investing in SMS software and working with a SMS service partner controls your time & costs that would otherwise be spent on maintaining an in-house SMS which can potentially be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for extra IT staff alone, and queue delays.

#2 - Availability of Skilled Safety Resources

In today's digital world, every department requires assistance from IT ranging from cybersecurity, data integrity and back-ups, to ongoing network support and so much more. This can leave your safety department waiting in a long queue for IT resources yet any SMS must keep up-to-date with the most current regulations or management changes.

Not to mention that the personal safety of your workers remains at stake, whilst waiting on internal IT resources to respond or react.

Outsourcing the design and management of your SMS saves time and IT resources throughout your organisation, minimising risk and enabling your safety specialists to focus on protecting your workers, the environment and your assets.

#3 - Business Requirements

Growth requires change, and as your business evolves the safety process requirements must evolve along with the changes. Such evolution needs more technology resources to continue development, testing and on-going support. Among other things to consider, is the cost of redevelopment as new safety technologies emerge. It's difficult and expensive to maintain.

It then makes business sense to purchase and outsource the management of your SMS to safety vendors who already have the most- up-to-date technology with the best features to meet your expanding needs, as well as the resources to maintain the pace of evolution.


While designing an internal SMS promotes conformity of company safety, having to recruit safety personnel at different levels to accommodate the ever evolving management system changes often requires a hefty investment of money. Not to mention, since H&S compliance standards are constantly evolving and advancing, delays can occur from time spent on new staffers getting onboarded.

On the other hand, however, strategic use of third-party safety services can provide for better personnel & resource management. Today, experienced safety consulting partners use the latest digital safety software tools to quickly evaluate & assess a company's safety needs, so as to free-up and coordinate resources to support other important non-safety day-to-day operations.

If you're keen on establishing your SMS, or want to learn more about how to invest in your H&S management today, give us a call!

Coyle-Group can help your organisation with the arrangement of all documentation necessary for safety personnel recruitment and also provide additional top-class compliance consultancy services.

Contact us today for a free consultation!