Management of safety within organizations has become a key topic within safety science. Theorizing on this subject covers a diverse pallet of concepts such as "resilience" and "safety management systems". Recent studies indicate that safety management theory has deficiencies. Our interpretation of these deficiencies is that much confusion originates from the issue that crucial meta-theoretical assumptions are mostly implicit or applied inconsistently. In particular, we argue that these meta-theoretical assumptions are of a systems theoretical nature. Therefore, we provide a framework that will be able to explicate and reflect on systems theoretical assumptions. With this framework, we analyze the ability of two frequently used safety management theories to tackle the problem of managing safety of Dutch military expeditionary organizations. This paper will show that inconsistent and implicit application of systems theoretical assumptions in these safety management theories results in problems to tackle such a practical problem adequately. We conclude with a reflection on the pros and cons of our framework. Also, we suggest particular meta-theoretical aspects that seem to be essential for applying safety management theory to organizations.