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In-house Safety Management Systems vs. Third-Party Safety Management Software: what makes the most business sense? – Alliance Borealis

Managing workplace safety is a core priority for industrial operations. To adequately protect workers and the environment, organizations need to implement structured safety management systems (SMS). This business approach to safety allows companies to manage their safety programs, identify hazards, report incidents, and be proactive in controlling risk.

A well-designed SMS is mandatory for planning, setting goals, capturing safety data and measuring safety performance.

A crucial decision in establishing an effective SMS is whether your company builds its SMS or contracts a third party to provide the service.

So, should you create a program in house, or purchase a proven software solution from an experienced industry vendor?

How to make your decision?

Ultimately, choosing between internal expertise and a third-party SMS software comes down to three key elements:

  1. Cost
  2. Availability of skilled in-house resources
  3. Business requirements

cost- Energy Now(1)

Historically, many companies used internal IT resources and safety experts to design, build and maintain their in-house SMS. This approach worked well when technology was less complex and faced fewer external risks, and when IT departments had fewer responsibilities.

Today, most organizations view their IT departments as cost centers. According to, the average annual salary for an Information Technology Manager is about $84,000 which doesn’t include benefits, training, or turnover. If you add the cost of development tools, equipment and the time your IT department will need to create and maintain your SMS, the price rises even further.

Building and maintaining an in-house SMS can potentially cost your company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Given today’s economic climate, this isn’t sustainable for most organizations.

When you invest in SMS software and work with a partner, you control your costs by paying a set fee that you have negotiated before making the purchase. Prices drop from hundreds to tens of thousands and become sustainable for the long-term.

Availability- Energy Now Copy

In today’s digital world, businesses have a wide range of IT requirements, including cybersecurity, data integrity and back-ups, ongoing network support, integration of multiple software platforms, and customer resource management. Every department requires assistance from IT.

The high demand for the IT department to provide services throughout your organization can leave your safety department waiting in a long line for the resources it needs to design and build a corporate SMS.  When there is a need to update and maintain your safety management system to keep it current with regulations or management changes, you will likely have to wait again.

The personal safety of your workers should be the cornerstone of your SMS.  Waiting on internal IT resources does not help achieve and maintain safety goals. For example, field operators need easy access to current safety policies and procedures, but if those documents are not accessible because the IT department has updates to your SMS below other priorities on their to-do list, it’s not much help in the field. Moreover, if safety managers have to wait on system updates before they can build statistical reports, or that functionality is just not available in your SMS, then they end up losing many hours building reports that should be possible inside the SMS.

Organizations often look to expert vendors to implement an SMS software solution to keep internal IT resources focused on essential business services. SMS software can even integrate with other business applications such as your field ticketing, invoicing, and competency management systems.

Outsourcing the design and management of your SMS saves time and money throughout your organization, minimizing risk and enabling your safety specialists to focus on protecting your workers, the environment and your assets.

Business requirements- Energy Now

As your safety process requirements evolve, new challenges surface. For example, the seasonal nature of some work will cause fluctuations of worker numbers across multiple locations, or integration with other corporate business applications could be required. This evolution needs more technology resources to continue development, testing and on-going support.

Growth requires change. IT departments are primarily tasked with ensuring their company’s digital safety, a task that is becoming increasingly difficult as information management, access and threats change. While they may also be skilled at software development, their skills may not include subject matter expertise necessary to ensure your finished SMS product meets all business requirements. Remember, they’re responsibilities are so spread out, your ability to get the SMS built and maintained may be subject to IT’s priorities, not yours.

Another fact to consider is the cost of redevelopment as new safety technologies emerge. It’s difficult and expensive to keep up.

Outsourcing to third-party SMS software provides you access to the most up-to-date technology. Your SMS partner can provide you with features like mobile forms, safety dashboards, readymade safety reports, KPI metrics and charts, allowing your safety team to spend more time protecting your workers and far less time chasing software development or maintenance processes.

The middle ground: Customizable SMS software solutions

The best of both worlds is an outsourced team that feels in-house. There are SMS software companies that provide existing SMS software as a service and will tailor their application to meet your needs.

Outsourcing the management of your SMS makes sense because your partner will have the technology, the resources and most of the features that meet your needs.

The benefits of working with a third-party SMS Management Software Solution

  • Get a product with proven tools and all the features you need
  • Access customization options to ensure the product fits your SMS and business requirements
  • Create more time for your SMS specialists to focus on their workers.
  • Quickly launch a usable and sustainable product
  • Integrate the SMS with other company applications
  • Save time and money

ABCanada – Who we are and what we do

At Alliance Borealis Canada Corp., our roots are in workplace health and safety programs. And, we’re pretty good at building SMS software solutions too!


Since 1997, we have completed significant health and safety projects all over the world and have used the knowledge we’ve gained to create our cloud-based, expertly designed software for managing safety programs and reporting and tracking incidents and leading safety indicators. Our goal is to be your HSE partner and provide solutions that work at every level of your company, making it easier and more economical for you to improve safety performance. Ask us about STELLAR HSE Management & Tracking or contact us for more information!

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