Management commitment and company policy are needed from the beginning. Once managers have a good understanding of the required components for an SMS, it is possible to make an outline plan for its development.
Everyone involved in the operation should have the opportunity to contribute to the development and implementation of the SMS.
Whilst it is essential that top management commit to doing whatever it takes to improve safety, it is equally important that all employees feel they have a system that values their input and is responsive to their contributions and ideas. In order to achieve this, all employees should have the opportunity to contribute to the development and implementation of the SMS. Individuals need to believe in the risk assessments and that mitigators are appropriate. Understand the importance of finding out their safety concerns at the outset. Encourage minority reports and opinions.
To start with, find out what components and elements are already in place, and identify the parts that are missing. This is called "Gap Analysis" and is an excellent way to identify the areas that will need to be addressed. In an established organisation it is likely that the majority of the functions needed for SMS will already be in use.
It is important to ensure the effective functioning of current arrangements, in particular the company occurrence reporting scheme, and take steps to encourage all personnel to use these arrangements to full effect.
Although the steps are very logical and simple to follow, they can be fairly time-consuming and manpower intensive at the start. It may be that having looked at what must be done, a company or organisation will feel that it needs some outside help. While this could be helpful, the choice of the source of assistance must be made very carefully. It is no use buying a system off the shelf and then trying either to modify the system to suit company practice or, worse still, trying to modify company practice to suit the system.
The aim of any organisation in documenting their SMS should be to 'write what you do and do what you write', and no more. Only those tasks or actions and associated documentation which are required to make the SMS effective should be added.
More detailed guidance is available in the OTAC.