10 Elements Of A Successful HSE Management System

Our clients work in a wide variety of industries all with a very different approach to health, safety, and environment (HSE) management systems. For example, a multinational energy production company has departments staffed with hundreds of people creating systems for health and safety management, while a local guide service has two people total in operations.

While these companies vary greatly in the complexity and amount of protocols, risk, and requirements, both companies can learn a lot by analyzing the basic structure of each other’s health and safety management system.

Let’s use a small mountain guide company that we work with as an example. This particular company integrates health and safety management into everything that they do. Every employee is actively involved in the health and safety process. In contrast, a multinational energy company has large departments that specialize in company operations. These are two very different approaches, and there are strengths and weaknesses to both management systems.

By comparing notes, these two companies can improve upon their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. The energy company might benefit from learning how to better integrate health and safety into all facets of the company, and the guiding company could brush up on their level of sophistication by implementing risk models and creating one or two point people that specialize in health and safety management.

Moral of the story? From an operational standpoint, there are always ways to improve.

Whether you are a safety employee for a small to midsize manufacturer, or managing a remote site project with thousands of employees, you need a well-documented HSE management system to ensure that you and your people are safe. Your company’s system must be written down, communicated, and practiced.

Source: Medical Remote International

Most successful health, safety, and environment management systems contain the following 10 key elements:

  1. A Way To Control And Distribute Up-To-Date Documents

Whether you use Google Drive, another cloud platform, or good old fashioned paper, every HSE system needs a way to distribute up-to-date documents to the right people. Creating protocols in this area helps ensure that employees always have access to current and correct safety information.


Creating safety inspection checklists serves many purposes—they establish a baseline for the quality of inspections no matter who is performing them, can decrease the amount of time it takes to perform inspections, and provide data on areas of safety that are improving or declining over time.


Risk assessments help you protect employees from potential harm, and your business from potential fines lawsuits. After identifying potential hazards to your workers, you can determine areas of safety non-compliance and devise and implement solutions.

  1. Emergency Response Plan

Although we hope you never have to use an emergency response plan, it’s always better to have one in place than to scramble during an emergency. OSHA requires emergency response plans to include how to report an emergency, evacuation procedures and assembly points, procedures to shut down project operations, rescue and medical duties for any workers assigned to perform them, and contact information for individuals with more information. Additionally, emergency response plans can contain information on local hospitals and medical services, and medical evacuation procedures.


  1. Training Program And Documentation System

Employee safety training programs can include fire/tornado/earthquake drills, accident simulations, and even first aid to advanced medical training. Other types of training include correct use of PPEs, forklift safety, and hazardous waste management. While OSHA does not require documentation of all types of training, it’s a best practice to keep documentation—these notes can be useful when planning future trainings.

  1. Internal Audit Policy And Schedule

Health and safety audits are another great way to ensure compliance with safety laws, as well as identify strengths and weaknesses in your HSE management system. Either an internal or external auditor can perform the audit, and no matter which route you choose, audits should be performed on a regular basis. Documentation from audits can be used to compare improvements and issues from year-to-year, identify trends, and create new safety initiatives based on audit data.


OSHA requires many employers to display their Job Safety and Health poster in a conspicuous space where employees can see it. This poster informs workers of their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Although not required, it can be helpful to display additional health and safety law and regulation information in the same space to encourage employee awareness and compliance.



Every business relies on performance metrics to improve their bottom line, and HSE departments are no exception. These metrics help identify areas that need improvement, as well as trends over time. Key performance indicators for health, safety, and environment include:

Lost Time Rate (LTR)

Total Accident Rate (TAR)

Accident Severity Rate (ASR)

Total Recordable Injuries

Working Days Since Last Incident


Creating a consistent meeting schedule for health, safety, and environment staff is key for reviewing current HSE strategies and successfully implementing new initiatives. Additionally, putting a clear communication plan in place fosters collaboration and reduces confusion during emergencies. Schedule HSE staff meetings on a weekly or biweekly basis, and make sure to assign a meeting leader and prepare an agenda to ensure efficient and effective meetings. Creating a contact sheet for all HSE personnel, a group in email or your internal communications tool, as well as an easily accessible work schedule, encourages transparent communication among the team.


Every HSE management system needs to be reviewed to verify that current goals are being met and new initiatives are being put in place. Review of your management system and team by senior leadership should be conducted on a regular basis. This keeps staff and the system accountable, and presents the opportunity for discussion between safety personnel and upper management.

The purpose of a health and safety management system is two-fold. First, we all seek to prevent illness and injury, and this requires some degree of systematization and integration of general management practices with health and safety. Second, when illness or injury occurs, you need a well-established and rehearsed plan to ensure that the response is appropriate. You should support these systems because you care deeply about those you are responsible for, but there is also a clear business factor at play: poor management of health and safety directly affects the bottom line in any organization. From the cost of rescue to a drop in employee morale, mismanagement of health and safety is very expensive.

We encourage you to use the checklist above by gathering your team and reviewing whether each of these steps has been implemented. If not, create a plan to put them in place.

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