Role of inspector: Safety management systems

Under safety management systems (SMSs), the inspector’s role is more important than ever. Why? They will not only make sure that companies comply with regulations, they will measure how effective companies’ SMSs really are.

Enhancing the work of inspectors

Safety management systems add an additional layer of safety regulation and provide additional rigour to Transport Canada’s current oversight program of inspections and audits.

New oversight methods

In the past, Transport Canada (TC) inspectors audited procedures and reviewed records to see if a company met regulations or not. These are known as compliance inspections. Under safety management systems, inspectors will be taking a more in-depth look at companies. Inspectors will also go into a company to watch how it operates and speak with the workers to measure how well a company’s procedures identify and address safety hazards before they become a serious safety risk. This allows TC inspectors to have more contact with a company’s senior management, supervisors and employees.

Evaluating effectiveness and compliance

The top-level assessment looks to see if the safety management system (SMS) complies with regulations and measures how effective a system it is, based on performance. Inspectors review a system by activity, and rate each sub-activity with a score from one to five. Scores are based on defined expectations, and a score of three means that the regulations are being met. A score above three means that the company goes beyond simply meeting a basic requirement and adopts industry best practices – always working to improve they way it operates.

When a company is getting ready to operate under a SMS , Transport Canada (TC) inspectors will evaluate each planned SMS activity before it is put into action. Companies moving to a SMS regime will follow a timetable for getting the system approved and running. When the SMS is in place, TC will continue to conduct recurrent inspections.

Taking a closer look at a company

The second level of oversight is always testing the effectiveness of the safety management system for finding, reporting and addressing safety hazards before they become safety problems. This oversight involves specific, targeted and routine inspections. These inspections take time to go inside a company’s operations to watch how they:

  • discover hazards;
  • rate hazards;
  • find the root causes of hazards;
  • respond to hazards and their causes;
  • monitor corrective actions to see if they worked.

These program validation inspections go beyond simply making sure a company complies with regulations. Transport Canada inspectors can step in at any point in the process to make sure that the company follows our regulations as well as measure how well they apply them.

When there is doubt that an operation’s level of compliance with all the regulations is low, but the program validation inspections do not prove this, a compliance inspection will be conducted.

Enforcing the law

If the operator does not try to correct any problems found by inspectors, they will be fined, or even shut down.