Telling owners that they need to implement a safety management system (SMS) when they have…
It is important to understand that QA deals with mostly customer, regulatory, and our company’s expectations. Embedded in many of our processes that deal with these expectations are defenses and barriers to contributing factors that produce human error. This is why it is so important to ensure we remain compliant with our planned actions, and we correct the deficiencies when we don’t follow our plan; the deficiencies could be defenses against possible errors, and we would not want these deficiencies to reoccur. QA focuses on getting the job done correctly and efficiently for our customers.
With the exception of some regulatory requirements, the company’s planned activities do not focus on getting the job done safely. This is where Safety Management comes in; it focuses on identifying unsafe conditions (called hazards) that could damage the company. It then adds actions to the appropriate processes to mitigate the probability that those identified damages will occur and the consequences when they do occur. It effectively adds another requirement to QA.
With SMS our processes that our QA system controls now must meet customer, company, regulatory, and safety requirements. QA mainly satisfies customer satisfaction, whereas SMS adds safety satisfaction. Of course this will only happen in a perfect world. In reality, management and employees do not always follow our planned actions, and our planned actions do not always do the job they are suppose to do. Employees and management may forget part of the activities they are suppose to do; tools, material and equipment required by our procedures may not be available or function properly; the environment and conditions may not allow us to follow our procedures; our egos and habits may force us to deviate; and a host of other factors make us deviate either intentionally or unintentionally from our planned actions.
In spite of our best efforts, in the actual world, this happens on a fairly regular basis. These deviations from procedures often cause errors that sometimes create damage and accidents. This happens not because we are bad people, but because we are human. The fact is, humans make errors every day. The only difference between leaving your coffee on the kitchen counter when going to work and leaving a split pin out of a nut when going for coffee is the consequence. They both are human error caused by the same human factor. These intentional and unintentional deviations are a dilemma that we must do something about. Another reality is that it really is impossible to write a procedure or make rules to prevent a person from forgetting, making mistakes, following the wrong rules, etc. So what do we do? We obviously must train the operators to recognize the possibility that they can make these errors, and then do something about it when they recognize they are in a condition where these errors could occur. We may not be able to always write procedures to prevent errors, but we can train people in human factors and error management to prevent errors from occurring. We can train them to recognize when they are in, or aware of, an error producing condition.
It is interesting to note that QA and SMS processes are developed and implemented by management, therefore they are called top down processes. On the other hand, error management does not have formal processes, except for perhaps an error or non-conformance reporting system, where the vessel operators implement it, therefore, error management activities are called bottom up processes. These systems work together to form an effective quality management system. QA controls processes, SMS adds safety requirements to processes, and error management is a defense when our actions to carry out those processes go astray.
Find out how Ocean Time Marine can help you minimize hazards aboard your vessel and ensure you stay up to date with regulatory compliance, vessel procedures, and emergency operations, with their safety management templates