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  • Donna Shope

Resiliency after an Accident or Incident – "It is not enough to simply 'recover'


While recovery focuses on returning to the pre-incident state, resilience involves the ability to adapt, grow, and thrive in the face of challenges. A Safety Management System (SMS) plays a crucial role in ensuring not only the immediate recovery from an unplanned event but also the long-term learning, growth, and continuous improvement of an organization.

Here's how an SMS contributes to the aspects of resiliency:

  1. Leadership Commitment: Having strong leadership during a crisis is crucial. Leaders who can inspire confidence, make decisive decisions, and communicate effectively contribute significantly to the organization's resilience.  While dealing with an emergency, having efficient resources, both human and material, is vital.  Resilience involves leadership's ability to optimize resource allocation and ensure reserves are available for unforeseen challenges.  SMS requires a strong leadership commitment to safety. When leaders prioritize and actively participate in safety initiatives, it sets a tone for the entire organization. This commitment is crucial during the recovery phase and sustaining a safety culture.

  2. Preparedness, Immediate Response, and Recovery: Being prepared for potential incidents is crucial. This involves having contingency plans, emergency response protocols, and adequate training for individuals involved. SMS provides a structured framework for responding to incidents promptly and effectively. This consists of activating emergency response plans, ensuring personnel safety, and minimizing the impact on operations.

  3. Learning from Events and Adaptability: A key component of SMS is the process of incident reporting, investigation, and analysis. By thoroughly examining the root causes of incidents, organizations can identify weaknesses in their safety systems and implement corrective actions. This learning process might also involve re-evaluating existing strategies, embracing change, and adjusting goals to align with the new reality, which is essential for preventing similar incidents in the future.

  4. Continuous Improvement: SMS is not a static system; it encourages a culture of continuous improvement. Post-incident, there should be a thorough analysis to understand what happened and why. Organizations can use the insights from incident analysis to enhance safety policies, procedures, and training programs. This ongoing improvement helps in building a more resilient and adaptive safety culture.

  5. Risk Management: SMS emphasizes proactive risk management. By identifying potential hazards and assessing risks, organizations can implement preventive measures to mitigate the likelihood of incidents. This approach contributes to creating a safer working environment.

  6. Training and Awareness: Safety Management Systems involve comprehensive training programs to ensure personnel are well-prepared to handle various scenarios. This not only aids in immediate response but also contributes to the overall safety culture, fostering a mindset of vigilance and responsibility.

  7. Regulatory Compliance: Many industries are subject to specific safety regulations. Implementing an SMS helps organizations comply with these regulations, reducing the risk of legal and regulatory consequences. This compliance is integral to ensuring the safety of assets and the well-being of personnel.

  8. Data-driven decision-making: Especially after an incident, Safety Assurance enables organizations to use the data and “Lessons Learned” to bring operations back to a stronger level. SMS relies on safety data collection and analysis; measuring and monitoring Safety Performance Indicators (SPI) and Safety Performance Targets (SPT). This data-driven approach enables organizations to make informed decisions, prioritize safety measures, and allocate resources effectively. 

  9. Human Factors:  Resilience also pertains to the emotional and mental well-being of individuals directly affected by the incident. Mental health support, counseling, and resources are crucial for long-term resilience.  Building a supportive environment is critical. This includes internal support within an organization and seeking external support from partners, stakeholders, and the community.

  10. Crisis Communication: Transparent and effective communication is essential during and after an incident and integral to the SMS. Clear and timely communication ensures that all stakeholders are informed about the situation, measures taken, and results. Keeping all stakeholders informed helps manage expectations, and fosters trust.

  11. Organizational Resilience: By integrating safety into the core of operations, SMS contributes to the overall resilience of the organization. This resilience goes beyond immediate recovery and extends to adapting, learning, and thriving in unexpected situations.

Resilience is a holistic and proactive approach to handling a situation after an accident or incident and goes beyond mere recovery. Safety Management Systems are not just tools for compliance but integral frameworks that contribute to the holistic well-being of an organization. SMS provides a structured approach to safety, from a reactive immediate response to a proactive and predictive mature safety culture. It involves not only recovering from setbacks but also learning from them, adapting to change, and continuously improving to navigate future challenges successfully.


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