Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lessons Learned from Creating Aviation Safety Management Software

Lessons Learned from Creating Aviation Safety Management Software

 These are simple observations I have discovered over the past six years as a developer of aviation safety management software for airlines, airports, aviation maintenance, fixed base operator and flight schools. These remarks may not be flattering, but they appear to be true across all industry segments. Before venturing into the aviation industry, we provided custom Web based software development for various industries in Alaska, including military defense, financial, engineering, logistics and e-commerce. Most of our clients lived or conducted business within Alaska, so the aviation safety management software market gave us an opportunity to ply our trade on an international scale.

When we started developing aviation safety management software, I was under the impression that airlines, oil companies, airports, etc. really focused on safety and that "safety was first." This slogan is not true, and I'm not even sure safety is second, but maybe safety is third.

What Really Matters in Aviation Safety Management?

The budget and bottom line is first. Without a doubt, if safety managers had top management support for their safety programs, they would unhesitatingly ensure these managers have the tools and resources available to do their jobs. After all, aviation maintenance mechanics don't come to work and expect to get the aircraft in the air with good wishes.

A major factor top management doesn't provide safety managers with the proper hazard reporting and risk management software tools is because they are ignorant of the entire safety process. Many safety management systems (SMS) professionals have recognized for many years that top management doesn't have a clue regarding the ICAO regulatory requirements that all aviation service providers must comply with.

One can understand that publicly operated facilities, such as airports have a budget. They have to live by the budget. In all honesty, the airports seem to accept and incorporate aviation safety management systems into their culture more rapidly than airlines and business jet operators. And we can easily understand why when we remember back on what matters most in aviation safety management.

Risk management focuses on identifying hazards and the associated risks. Once these elements have been identified, they can come up with control measure to reduce risk to as low as reasonably practical (or possible). This term is also call ALARP.

What Else Matters in Safety Management

Top management support is a crucial factor in any successful aviation safety management program. When safety managers don't have top management support, they won't get the resources they need to get the job. Furthermore, if top management is only singing the words without meaning, then the employees will spot this quickly and realize that safety is not as important as it should be. There are hundreds of executive leaders who mean well, but true commitment to safety can take more than 5 minutes per month. You may need to write a newsletter, speak at safety meetings or engage in another meaningful and visible safety promotion activity.

Aviation Safety Management Convenience Factor

Very often, employees have good intentions. But if safety is not convenient and participating in the safety program means doing something else that "I'm not getting paid to do," then most employees won't bother helping the company unless they have a personal interest.

Is it easy to report a safety incident? If it is not, then it is up to management to provide the tools necessary for employees to report aviation incidents and accidents, such as through email. Most employees in the Western world have a smart phone, or have access to a computer to either submit an issue using an electronic reporting form or better yet, through an email.

Make it easy for employees to participate in your safety program and without a doubt, your incident reporting will increase. Along the same thread, ensure that your employees receive feedback or followup on their reported issues. Closing the feedback loop is very important.

Notes:
NWDS was founded in 2003 by six software engineers and provides custom computer programming and systems design services. In 2007-2008 NWDS developed SMS Pro™ a web based SMS application that supports an organization’s overall SMS through safety reporting, safety documentation, safety risk management and safety assurance. SMS Pro ™ is currently used by aviation organizations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Southeast Asia, South America and the Middle East to help manage their SMS programs . NWDS continues to support SMS Pro and add new functionality. NWDS offers custom contract programming services in Alaska and is managed by Chris Howell, one of the founders.





About NWDS - founded in 2003 by six software engineers, NorthWest Data Solutions (NWDS) provides custom computer programming and systems design services. NWDS creates many types of software, including e-commerce, financial, defense, engineering, logistics, aviation and more. In 2007, NWDS developed SMS Pro™ a web based SMS application that supports an organization's overall SMS through safety reporting, safety documentation, safety risk management and safety assurance. SMS Pro™ is currently used by aviation organizations in the U.S., Canada, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East to help manage their SMS programs. NWDS continues to support SMS Pro™ and add new functionality. NWDS offers custom contract programming services in the U.S. and Canada and is managed by Chris Howell, one of the founders. Their headquarters is in Anchorage, Alaska. For information on NWDS visit their website at www.nwds-ak.com and www.asms-pro.com to learn more about SMS Pro™.

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