Aviation safety has traditionally focused on compliance with regulatory requirements and reacted to undesirable events by prescribing measures to prevent recurrence. A different approach is needed to keep safety risks at an acceptable level as the industry continues to develop. Safety management systems are designed to complement regulatory compliance by the proactive use of best practices.
ICAO has published Standards in several of the Annexes to the Chicago Convention requiring States to place requirements on operators and service providers to implement SMS.
What is SMS
SMS is a proactive way to manage safety by identifying actual or potential threats to safety and then determine and implement remedial action. It also provides for the continuous monitoring and regular assessment of the safety level achieved.
SMS is simply adopting a businesslike approach to safety, similar to the way that finances are managed. Unless a company experiences a loss, or critically assesses both the direct and indirect costs of an occurrence, the full implications are unlikely to be appreciated. The direct costs are usually easy to quantify, they include damage to the aircraft, compensation for injuries and damage to property and are usually settled through an insurance claim.
The indirect costs are more difficult to assess, these are often not covered or fully reimbursed by the company’s insurance and the impact is often delayed. This includes items such as:
- loss of business and reputation
- legal fees and damage claims
- medical costs not covered by worker’s compensation
- cost of lost use of equipment (loss of income)
- time lost by injured person(s) and cost of replacement workers
- increased insurance premiums
- aircraft recovery and clean-up
How is SMS Beneficial
Use of an SMS has clear business benefits:
- stability, safety and customer support – customers are aware some operations are safer than others
- possible reduction in insurance premiums through demonstration of control of safety risks
- good work/life balance practices, for example adjustment of rosters to avoid most tiring shift will give safety benefits, and can also improve staff morale - potentially lowering staff turnover and reducing training costs
- a proactive approach to safety can be demonstrated with documented evidence in the event of an incident or accident.
When is it Necessary
SMS is necessary now and has to become a part of the culture. An active safety culture can be considered as the heart that is vital to the continuing success of an SMS - it gives the dynamic energy needed to ensure that the system will provide a continuous cycle of improvement as intended. This can only be developed by leadership, commitment and setting a good example.
What is Your Responsibility
Accurate and timely reporting of relevant information related to hazards, incidents or accidents is a fundamental activity of safety management and it is each employee's responsibility to make such reports. The data used to support safety analyses are reported by multiple sources. One of the best sources of data is direct reporting by front-line personnel since they observe hazards as part of their daily activities. Supervisors and Magagers responsibility is to constantly encourage the reporting of their errors and/or observations of safety issues.
- TCIAA Safety Policy
- The Senior Manager's Role in SMS
- Best Practices for Safety Climate, Culture and Management Systems (video)