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Are there holes in your SHMS?

Every safety and health management system (SHMS) inevitably has its gaps. None are flawless, despite efforts to comply with regulations or established frameworks. Recently, while assisting a client with their SHMS review, we encountered a critical issue that sparked reflection on the broader effectiveness of such systems.

Identifying the Gaps

During our review process, we meticulously examined their broad brush risk assessment, scrutinising each critical, fatal, or high-risk item for alignment within their SHMS. Surprisingly, approximately 15% of these identified risks were not adequately addressed within their system. This discovery highlighted a common pitfall: many organisations outline risks on paper but lack corresponding system controls, rendering their safety protocols theoretical rather than practical.

The Legislation vs. Real Risks Dilemma

In industries like mining, adherence to legislation often forms the backbone of SHMS. While crucial, relying solely on legislative compliance can overlook risks not explicitly covered by laws. For instance, hazards like off-site vehicle driving or toxic emissions may pose significant threats but aren’t always directly addressed by standard frameworks.

Bridging the Gap: A Structured Approach

To fortify SHMS effectiveness, we advocate for two strategic methodologies:

  1. Risk Alignment with Document Types: We emphasise aligning identified risks with specific SHMS documents. For critical risks such as underground fires, this entails developing bespoke risk assessments and management plans tailored to each identified hazard.
  2. Activity-Based Mapping: Taking an activity-centric view, we map organisational tasks and processes to corresponding sections of the SHMS. This ensures that hazards associated with routine activities are identified and appropriately managed within the system.

Practical Implementation

Implementing these strategies involves a systematic approach to ensure comprehensive coverage of all operational risks. It’s not merely about meeting regulatory requirements but about creating a robust safety culture where identified risks translate into actionable controls and procedures.

Tools for Success

For organisations navigating the complexity of SHMS alignment, tools like our simplified mapping tool can streamline the process. By visually aligning risks, document types, critical controls, and regulatory requirements, this tool provides a clear health check of your SHMS.


In conclusion, while legislative frameworks provide essential guidelines, they should serve as a foundation rather than the entirety of your SHMS. By integrating a risk-centric and activity-based approach, organizations can effectively bridge the gaps between identified risks and operational safety measures. This proactive stance not only enhances compliance but more importantly, safeguards against potential workplace hazards, fostering a safer and healthier working environment for all.

By adopting these strategies, organisations can proactively address potential gaps in their SHMS, ensuring that safety remains a top priority in their operational framework.

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