What are the most common misconceptions about SMS?
There are a few major misconceptions about SMS:
SMS is just a new "buzzword" to replace "system safety." To the contrary, SMS applies system safety concepts and adds formal system safety management concepts. Most safety research has shown that major accidents are not simply the result of one individual’s behavior or actions. Major accidents typically have organizational antecedents with multiple causes involving people operating across many levels or functions in an organization. It follows that predicting and preventing major accidents requires addressing the root causes based in organizational practices, management systems, and culture. SMS brings these elements into the system safety approach.
SMS requires a separate safety department. While rail transit agencies and larger bus agencies will have specialist safety personnel such as a Director of Safety, safety and quality auditors and analysts, investigators, etc., an SMS is a set of management practices rather than a requirement for an additional organizational "layer" or "stovepipe." SMS focuses on functional expectations by operational departments; therefore resource allocation should be appropriate for the size of the organization.
SMS requires Voluntary Employee Reporting to follow specific rules and guidelines. Voluntary employee reporting programs are a major element of SMS, but no specific program is mandated. Each public transportation agency will be able to determine how best to involve employees and obtain voluntary safety reports from employees.
SMS is a costly regulation that will hurt the transit agency’s financial performance. To the contrary, SMS can help transit agencies improve their bottom line. The hazards that put our people at risk are the same hazards that disrupt transit operations. Research has shown that improved information sharing regarding potential safety concerns in operations and maintenance will result in the design of more targeted solutions to all sorts of problems saving time and resources. For example, as a result of access to a shared information management system and jointly attended monthly safety committee meetings, vehicle maintainers and track inspectors work together to identify and resolve wheel-rail interface problems enhancing both ride quality and maintenance efficiency.