What is a ‘Management System’?

A management system is the integrated set of processes and tools that a company uses to:

  • develop its strategy;
  • translate it into operational actions; and,
  • monitor and improve the effectiveness of both.

These systems have been in use for many years; for example, the aviation, nuclear, chemical, medical, and food safety industries, experience low probability/high consequence events. The general public consider these events as unacceptable, and a significant reduction in failures or incidents. These industries adopted ‘management systems’ to help reduce these incidents [1].

What does a Management System Do?

A management system helps us manage a particular aspect of our business; e.g., pipeline safety. It will need [2, 3, 4]:

  • leadership and management commitment;
  • stakeholder engagement;
  • a clear policy;
  • staff organisation;
  • risk management;
  • operational controls;
  • safety assurance;
  • incident investigations, lessons learnt;
  • emergency preparedness and response.

What does a Management System Look Like?

The system needs to include [2, 3, 4]:

  • a plan, setting targets and objectives, and identifying hazards;
  • competence, awareness, and training;
  • assessing risks and establishing standards against which you can measure performance (and show continuous improvement);
  • documentation and record-keeping; and,
  • periodic audit, review, and continuous improvement.

Figure 1 gives a schematic of a management system, focussed on safety.

Figure 1. A Safety Management System.

History of Management Systems

Management systems were introduced many years ago, as management methods developed, Figure 2 [5].

Figure 2. History of Management Systems.

Implementation and Success Factors [1]

There are a number of critical factors that determine the likelihood of successful development, implementation and sustainability of a management system:

  • executive commitment is essential;
  • management system implementation is not a short-term project, and does not necessarily have immediately quantifiable or visible impacts;
  • the management system itself will evolve and improve as it becomes a fundamental part of the business model;
  • organizational culture must support the system; i.e. a cultural of minimizing threats, and a focus on the goal of zero incidents;
  • organizations must design and implement management systems in a way that works with their culture, structure, and core values, as well as building on existing programs and processes.


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the USA has expressed concern about the lack of safety management and preventive maintenance. Their accident investigations revealed that safety management systems could have prevented loss of life and injuries. These management systems enable people to execute tasks using risk management.


  1. T Scott et al, ‘Building Confidence in Pipeline Safety: The role of management systems in achieving our goal of zero incidents’, INGAA White Paper. October 2012.
  2. http://www.hse.gov.uk/paper/safetymanagement.pdf
  3. ‘Managing Health and Safety’, HSE Publication. INDG275. Health and Safety Executive. UK. Revision 3. 2012. http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg275.pdf http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg275.pdf
  4. Anon., ‘Pipeline Safety Management Systems ‘, ANSI/API Recommended Practice 1173. American Petroleum Industry. USA. July, 2015.
  5. www.uky.edu/~wmbowl0/chapter%202%20pp.ppt