How Does A Safety Management System (SMS) Work With A Quality Assurance
(QA) System – And How Are They Different?

It is important to understand that QA deals with mostly customer, regulatory, and our company’s expectations. Embedded in many of our processes that deal with these expectations are defenses and barriers to contributing factors that produce human error. This is why it is so important to ensure we remain compliant with our planned actions, and we correct the deficiencies when we don’t follow our plan; the deficiencies could be defenses against possible errors, and we would not want these deficiencies to reoccur. QA focuses on getting the job done correctly and efficiently for our customers.

With the exception of some regulatory requirements, the company’s planned activities do not focus on getting the job done safely. This is where Safety Management comes in; it focuses on identifying unsafe conditions (called hazards) that could damage the company. It then adds actions to the appropriate processes to mitigate the probability that those identified damages will occur and the consequences when they do occur. It effectively adds another requirement to QA.

With SMS our processes that our QA system controls now must meet customer, company, regulatory, and safety requirements. QA mainly satisfies customer satisfaction, whereas SMS adds safety satisfaction. Of course this will only happen in a perfect world. In reality, management and employees do not always follow our planned actions, and our planned actions do not always do the job they are suppose to do. Employees and management may forget part of the activities they are suppose to do; tools, material and equipment required by our procedures may not be available or function properly; the environment and conditions may not allow us to follow our procedures; our egos and habits may force us to deviate; and a host of other factors make us deviate either intentionally or unintentionally from our planned actions.