Safety management done right

By Kevin Reilly and Sarah Rydgren | December 6, 2021

Safety comes in many different shapes and sizes. Most people envision hard hats or Hi-Viz vests. But safety encompasses much more than that. Regulations put in place by most national transportation authorities including the Department of Transportation, USA and Transport Canada now require most transportation agencies to implement a Safety Management System (SMS). An SMS is a formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risks and assuring the effectiveness of risk mitigations. In the United States, for example, most transit agencies must now adopt a scalable, flexible SMS approach under new Federal Transit Administration regulation 49 CFR 673.

Important to note is that while having an SMS is a standard approach in commercial aviation and other international transportation modes, each industry and each client have different cultures that must be understood and placed at the center of every decision made in the organization.

Our focus is to innovate in all that we do, and our diverse teams have the practical experience and technical expertise working directly for transportation agencies, commercial airlines, regulatory agencies, and industry standards organizations. Our teams build upon the four components of SMS, as seen in the figure below, to build a system that works for our clients’ unique operating environments.

An SMS is more than just writing policies and procedures. It’s more than just putting out safety awareness campaigns or inspecting a job site. An SMS connects every safety process from start to end. It emphasizes safety performance indicators and targets, as well as risk-based, data-driven decisions to allocate a company’s resources. From procuring a new piece of equipment to holding a pre-work safety briefing, an SMS aligns the mission of the organization to ensure safety is considered in every organizational decision.

 In addition to our well-rounded understanding of the SMS components and how each one is applied and works with one another; we’ve made it an area of emphasis to ensure safety risk management incorporates a robust organizational process. Specifically, we have developed an innovative way of assessing operational risks for our clients. Using our Operational Risk Management (ORM) framework, we make safety decision-making easy to understand and decisive for our clients.

From the conceptual phase of a project, Hatch’s ORM framework identifies key areas that must be addressed to mitigate unnecessary operational risks after the project and construction is completed.

An organization’s SMS can’t simply be written down and put on a shelf. Our approach to SMS also involves customized SMS training modules suited to fit our clients’ training preferences. From initial curriculum design to publication and training completion data analysis, we offer a fully customizable SMS training package to all agencies complying with federal safety regulations. Courses developed include the following SMS topics:

  • SMS Fundamentals
  • Safety Culture
  • SMS Leadership Responsibilities
  • Safety Performance
  • Safety Risk Management (SRM)
  • Safety Assurance
  • Preparing for an SRM Workshop
  • SRM Facilitation


Case Study

It’s no secret the main drivers behind most safety investment decisions involve money and regulations. One major transportation agency—an operator of buses, trains, ferries, a regional rail network, and paratransit service—had the foresight to understand that new federal and state regulations involving an SMS and workplace safety were inevitable. This organization, committed to ensuring every employee and the general public are getting home safe every day, proactively issued a Request for Proposals to support their SMS implementation efforts. In tandem, Hatch was awarded the five-year contract and has been the agency’s prime safety consultant, leading the industry into the next era of safety management. With our emphasis on safety culture, we worked together to support this transportation agency throughout the development and implementation of its SMS.

Our client had a vision of re-imagining safety for their workforce. Instead of tweaking policy and re-branding their safety department, this transportation agency wanted to be the best-in-class with their SMS. Hatch got to work using its long history of rail engineering and safety experience, along with innovative approaches from other industries and countries, to develop the practical strategy that succeeded for our client.


An SMS is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. We build implementation strategies centered around the culture of each respective client. By examining where a client’s safety maturity is and knowing what an industry-leading SMS looks like, our experts have the expertise to design and execute a detailed implementation plan for how to work together with the client to achieve their vision. SMS success stems from deep, collaborative, and nurturing relationships with clients.

That’s the secret.

Former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt stated, “SMS isn’t something you’s something you do.”

The benefits of implementing an SMS are two-fold: insurance companies routinely reduce premiums for organizations who implement an SMS—voluntarily or otherwise—and employees begin to feel appreciated, workplace morale improves, and communication between labor and management is strengthened.

An SMS can’t be developed by a consultant, implemented by a consultant, and managed by a consultant. It takes the right balance and leadership from our clients to be the voice, the champion, and the change they want to see at their organization. We understand this balance and can help agencies develop safety policies, implementation plans, and standard operating procedures. Policies, procedures, data analysis, and risk assessments are all held together by your organization’s safety culture, which takes years and years to cultivate and nurture into one that is built on a mutual, trusting bond between labor and management. If you are looking to incorporate an SMS, we can be there with you every step of the way.