FAQs

Frequently asked questions about Safety Management Systems (SMS).

What is a Safety Management System (SMS)?

A Safety Management System (SMS) is a systematic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organisational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures. It should aim to manage safety risks and ensure the safety of a business’s transport activities, so far as is reasonably practicable. When implemented into your business, an SMS will help you to continuously improve the safety of your operations and assist in meeting your responsibilities under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

Is having an SMS mandatory?

No. Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) it’s not mandatory to have a Safety Management System (SMS). We do, however, believe that implementing an SMS helps to demonstrate how your business is ensuring the safety of its transport activities and that you and/or your executive officer are exercising appropriate due diligence to ensure your business complies with the safety duty.

What is meant by ‘due diligence?

Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) due diligence means taking reasonable steps:

  1. to acquire, and keep up to date, knowledge about the safe conduct of transport activities; and
  2. to gain an understanding of—
    1. the nature of the legal entity’s transport activities; and
    2. the hazards and risks, including the public risk, associated with those activities; and
  3. to ensure the legal entity has, and uses, appropriate resources to eliminate or minimise those hazards and risks; and
  4. to ensure the legal entity has, and implements, processes—
    1. to eliminate or minimise those hazards and risks; and
    2. for receiving, considering, and responding in a timely way to, information about those hazards and risks and any incidents; and
    3. for complying with the legal entity’s safety duty under section 26C; and
  5. to verify the resources and processes mentioned in paragraphs (c.) and (d.) are being provided, used and implemented.

Why should I have an SMS?

An SMS is a great way of minimising the risk of people getting hurt and preventing damage to vehicles and infrastructure. Also, having an SMS clearly demonstrates that you’re taking your safety duties obligations seriously by adopting a proactive approach to managing hazards and risks in your business.

Key benefits of implementing an SMS include:

  • assisting you to meet your safety responsibilities under the HVNL
  • providing you with a means to manage risk and enhance safe practices
  • assisting your business to allocate limited resources to the most critical areas that have an impact on safety
  • helping your business become a preferred supplier to customers
  • providing a framework to make informed safety decisions and increase efficiencies
  • reducing costs by proactively identifying risks before they result in an incident or major accident.

Is every SMS the same?

No, they’re not all identical. It depends on the size and complexity of your business. However, the framework should be similar and cover the following four major components:

  • Safety policy and documentation
  • Safety risk management
  • Safety assurance
  • Safety promotion and training.

What will my safety responsibilities be when the HVNL changes?

On 1 October 2018, the HVNL was changed so that the safety of transport activities relating to a heavy vehicle is the shared responsibility of each party in the Chain of Responsibility for the heavy vehicle. The specific party’s responsibility for a transport activity will depend on the role the party performs or is required to perform, and the party’s ability to control, eliminate or minimise the risk.

The Law recognises that: “a person may have more than one duty because of the role the person performs or is required to perform” and “Each party in the Chain of Responsibility for a heavy vehicle must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of the party’s transport activities relating to the vehicle.”

Each party must:

  • eliminate or minimise risks related to transport activities
  • ensure their conduct does not directly or indirectly cause or encourage the driver of the heavy vehicle to breach the Law or exceed a speed limit.
  • not cause or encourage another person, including another party in the Chain of Responsibility, to breach the Law.
  • not ask, direct or require (directly or indirectly) the driver of a heavy vehicle or a party in the chain of responsibility to do or not do something that would have the effect of causing the driver—
    • to exceed a speed limit
    • to drive a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle while impaired by fatigue
    • to drive a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle while in breach of the driver’s work and rest hours option.

Who are parties in the Chain of Responsibility for a heavy vehicle?

Under the HVNL, the following people are considered parties in the Chain of Responsibility for a heavy vehicle:

  • if the vehicle’s driver is an employed driver – an employer of the driver
  • if the vehicle’s driver is a self-employed driver – a prime contractor for the driver
  • an operator of the vehicle
  • a scheduler for the vehicle
  • a consignor of any goods in the vehicle
  • a consignee of any goods in the vehicle
  • a packer of any goods in the vehicle
  • a loading manager for any goods in the vehicle
  • a loader of any goods in the vehicle
  • an unloader of any goods in the vehicle.

What’s the difference between an SMS and a Quality Management System (QMS)?

The focus of a QMS is on producing products or delivering services to a consistent standard (i.e. assuring and improving quality), whereas the focus of an SMS is on ensuring and continually improving the safety of operations.

Is my National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) system an SMS?

The NHVAS system is not a complete SMS as such. The NHVAS standards address risks associated with mass management, maintenance management and fatigue management. They also include other components found in an SMS, such as documenting policies and procedures, training employees and detailing responsibilities. Therefore, the NHVAS is a good starting point for businesses wanting to develop and implement an SMS.

Will I have to get my SMS audited?

No, it’s generally not a requirement to have your SMS audited, unless it’s a requirement of one of your customers. However, you may want to consider an audit anyway, as it’s a good way to get an external opinion on whether you’re doing everything reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of your transport activities relating to a heavy vehicle.

I may already have some of the elements of an SMS. How will I know?

You can complete the Safety Management System (SMS) Checklist (DOCX, 85KB) to help identify which SMS elements you already have in place and which others it might be beneficial for you to introduce to your business.

I’ve done what you suggested and put in place an SMS. Should I be doing more?

You should treat your SMS as a ‘living document’, it should be continually changing as you improve your processes. For example, you should be regularly updating your Risk Register as you identify new risks and add additional controls in your operations.

I don’t have an SMS. How do I start putting one in place?

A good starting point is to read the overview booklet Introduction to Safety Management Systems in the Heavy Vehicle Industry (PDF, 3.4MB). This provides an overview of each of the components of an SMS and outlines how they’re important to improving safety. When you’ve done this, it’s recommended you complete the Safety Management System (SMS) Checklist (DOCX, 85KB) to help identify which SMS elements you already have in place and which others it might be beneficial for you to introduce to your business.

When implementing your SMS it is suggested that you use a phased approach, rather than try to put all the components and elements in place at once. The following table provides guidance on the sequence for establishing SMS elements.

How do I get my third parties (contractors and subcontractors) to use an SMS?

We would suggest that you talk to your third parties about putting together an SMS and encourage them to look at the NHVR website www.nhvr.gov.au/sms

Our Third Party Interactions - Quick Guide (PDF, 31KB) and Third Party Engagement Checklist - Template (Basic) (DOCX, 146KB) explains the relationships and mutual responsibilities that can exist between parties in the Chain of Responsibility to ensure safety of transport activities.

Where can I get help or advice to build an SMS?

The NHVR website (www.nhvr.gov.au/sms) explains the four components of an SMS and the process for building your own SMS.

A good starting point is to read the Introduction to Safety Management Systems in the Heavy Vehicle Industry (PDF, 1.6MB) booklet and get an overview of each of the components. We also suggest that you complete the SMS checklist at the back of the booklet or the Safety Management System (SMS) Checklist (DOCX, 85KB) to gain an understanding of what you have in place and what you need to work on.

You can also email your SMS questions and queries to info@nhvr.gov.au

Can I use the SMS approach to help manage my Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) risks?

Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) laws require that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its workers.

The Heavy Vehicle National law (HVNL) requires that each party in the Chain of Responsibility for a heavy vehicle must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of the party’s transport activities relating to the vehicle.

Common systems and approaches exist, with the HVNL building on the principles that already existed with the WHS law. This should make the integration of an SMS a cost-effective process as it uses similar approaches to WHS.