By centralizing safety data, automating processes, digitizing protocols, and ensuring compliance agility, safety management systems create safer work environments and navigate the intricacies of industry regulations with confidence.
By Caroline Sharpless

Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) play a vital role in the recycling process—they are also one of the most dangerous places to work, leading to a whole lot of paperwork. Adopting a robust safety management system (SMS) is crucial to your operation’s success in 2024. Harnessing the capabilities of an effective SMS not only enhances safety protocols, but also ensures MRFs remain in compliance with stringent industry standards.

Simplify OSHA 300-A completion with a single click, auto-populating the form based on the information gathered throughout the year.
Images courtesy of SMS360.


Automation for Efficiency
One of the defining strengths of a well-integrated SMS lies in its ability to automate safety and compliance processes. By automating routine tasks, MRFs reduce the administrative burden on staff, allowing them to focus on proactive safety measures rather than manual paperwork. Automated workflows not only enhance efficiency, but also contribute to the consistency and accuracy of safety protocols, creating a more streamlined and effective operation.

For example, you can save hours—if not, days—spent on OSHA 300-A reporting by digitizing the incident-first response process. Instead of traditional paper forms or Excel sheets, a robust safety management system will guide users through OSHA recordability determination and generate customized forms based on incident types, significantly reducing input time with quick checkboxes and dropdown menus. The information submitted through these first-response forms is sent straight to OSHA, then aggregated and stored in the system so when it comes time to submit the OSHA 300-A form once a year, the system will automatically fill out your form for you, using the information from each first-response report. The cloud-based system ensures compliance with OSHA’s five-year storage requirement, granting instant access to previous years’ forms from any location, and facilitating ease of retrieval during inspections.

Beyond efficiency gains, this method enhances report quality by enabling users to capture real-time incident details, including photos, directly from a tablet or mobile device at the scene of the incident. Supervisors can verify the authenticity of submissions and prevent the upload of outdated or manipulated images.

Digitizing Safety Protocols
Embracing a safety management system involves a digital transformation of safety and compliance processes. MRFs can leverage digital tools within the SMS to conduct safety audits, inspections, and incident reporting with unprecedented efficiency. The transition to digital not only accelerates the speed of operations, but also enables immediate corrective actions, mitigating risks and fostering a safer work environment.

Safety observations, for example, become exponentially more effective when they are conducted digitally. Let’s say your organization conducts daily facility inspections to make sure everything is running smoothly. These observations are crucial for identifying operational challenges and gauging employee performance. While observations in the form of surprise checks can serve as a motivator to keep employees on their toes, the potential benefits extend beyond this initial purpose. The collected information empowers supervisors to make timely adjustments, preventing accidents or fines proactively. However, when these inspections or observations are done via paper forms, the information recorded is often neglected post-inspection. Data is collected and then stashed away, causing the data to become obsolete over time. In reality, that data is gold.

Once this information is recorded digitally, you can run reports to find patterns. You might find that certain risky behaviors are only happening on Tuesdays. From there, you can dig deeper to find out why and then instate a plan to prevent recurrence.


SMS360 software allows workers to record risks, identify causes, report outcomes, analyze data, adjust processes, and ultimately eliminate risks. This proactive system ensures that safety observations transcend mere compliance monitoring, evolving into a dynamic process that actively contributes to continuous improvement and risk mitigation.

Escalated Communication Ability
An SMS significantly enhances communication channels from top to bottom with a streamlined approach that ensures relevant stakeholders, whether supervisors or mechanics, are promptly informed when critical items are submitted, or issues are assigned to them. The SMS’ automation feature eliminates delays and fosters a proactive response to safety concerns, maintenance tasks, or any other operational matters. This not only accelerates the resolution process, but also contributes to a more efficient and responsive organizational workflow. The automatic e-mail notifications serve as an invaluable tool, keeping all team members in the loop and promoting a culture of timely communication and collaboration throughout the organization. This is also a huge time saver eliminating the need for supervisors to constantly update the portal or drivers to draft lengthy e-mails and download attachments. It holds everyone accountable to ensure everyone is in compliance.

Ensuring Compliance Agility
Compliance is a perpetual challenge for MRFs, with regulations constantly evolving. A robust SMS, however, acts as a dynamic shield, keeping facilities aligned with industry standards and regulatory requirements. Whether it is OSHA mandates, environmental guidelines, or other regulatory stipulations, an effective SMS provides a structured framework for MRFs to stay compliant and adapt swiftly to changing regulations.

By centralizing safety data, automating processes, digitizing protocols, and ensuring compliance agility, safety management systems create safer work environments and navigate the intricacies of industry regulations with confidence. The adoption of a robust SMS is not only merely a strategic choice, but also a commitment to the well-being of the workforce and the sustainability of MRF operations in an ever-evolving waste management landscape. Embracing the transformative power of SMS paves the way for a safer, more compliant, and, ultimately, more successful future in the waste and recycling industry. | WA

Caroline Sharpless is Director of Marketing for SMS360, an EHS software platform that digitizes regulatory compliance and safety management. The team behind SMS360 has decades of experience in the waste industry and safety sphere. Companies across the globe use SMS360 to identify costly risk, operational inefficiencies, and compliance pitfalls. Caroline can be reached at (203) 838-8877 or e-mail [email protected].