Friday, February 8, 2013

Enterprise Risk Management in Aviation Safety Management Systems

Risk Management in Aviation Safety Management Systems (SMS)

Top Management is Accountable!
Top management is accountable for the implementation of airline and airport aviation safety management systems (SMS). Responsibility can be delegated to safety managers, but top management is ultimately accountable for the successful implementation. Top management delegates these responsibilities, and as part of the delegation process, top management sends safety managers to aviation safety management courses to ensure their safety managers have an adequate understanding of what is required in an aviation safety management system.

In some cases, the safety manager brings back the knowledge gained from the aviation safety management courses and disseminates the information to other managers and employees. The point to fix on is that this does not happen all the time. And top management is still accountable regardless of how well the safety manager performs his task.

Who Audits the Safety Manager at Your Airline/Airport?

How does top management know whether the safety manager is doing a good job? Who is auditing the safety manager internally? Should your airline or airport jeopardize your certificate and wait for civil aviation authorities to conduct their audit and present you with a list of deficiencies? How does top management manage the risk in their enterprises to ensure they don't get caught off guard?

How Do You Know Your Aviation SMS Program is Working?

Internal aviation safety audits are important. One important point to bring out is that your internal safety audits should not be performed by the safety manager. You want an impartial eye performing the audit and you need to ensure that your required elements are documented in a way that aviation SMS auditors can confidently agree that you have fulfilled the requirements.

Aviation SMS Software helps!
To perform your aviation SMS audit, you will need an aviation SMS audit checklist. If you don't have an aviation SMS audit checklist, you have a few alternatives:
  1. Wing it (not the best choice);
  2. Ask the auditor for a copy (sometimes they will oblige);
  3. Use a gap analysis checklist (like in SMS Pro, which has several models, such as ICAO, IS-BAO, FAA, Transport Canada);
  4. Use an implementation plan checklist (like the ones provided in SMS Pro, such as ICAO and Transport Canada).
Transport Canada put out an advisory circular that has some good checklist. Here is the link to the document. 

For airlines and airports just starting their aviation SMS implementation, top management should be asking these questions, which have been extracted from this AC.

Component 1 – Safety Management Plan 

Element 1.1 Safety Policy

  1. Is a safety management system with defined components established, maintained and adhered to?
  2. Is there a safety policy in place?
  3. Is the safety policy approved by the accountable executive?
  4. Has the organization based its safety management system on the safety policy?
  5. Is the safety policy promoted by the accountable executive?
  6. Is the safety policy reviewed periodically?
  7. Is the safety policy communicated to all employees with the intent that they are made aware of their individual safety obligations?

Element 1.2, Non-Punitive Safety Reporting Policy

  1. Is there a policy in place that provides immunity from disciplinary action for employees that report safety deficiencies, hazards or occurrences?

Element 1.3, Roles & Responsibilities

Checklists are tools to guide you!
  1. Has an accountable executive been appointed with responsibility for ensuring that the safety management system is properly implemented and performing to requirements in all areas of the organization?
  2. Does the accountable executive have control of the financial and human resources required for the proper execution of his/her SMS responsibilities?
  3. Does the person managing the operation of the SMS fulfill the required job functions and responsibilities?
  4. Are the safety authorities, responsibilities and accountability of personnel at all levels of the organization defined and documented?
  5. Do all personnel understand their authorities, responsibilities and accountability in regards to all safety management processes, decisions and actions?

Element 1.4, Communication

  1. Are there communication processes in place within the organization that permit the safety management system to function effectively?
  2. Are communication processes (written, meetings, electronic, etc.) commensurate with the size and scope of the organization?
  3. Is information established and maintained in a suitable medium that provides direction in related documents?
  4. Is there a process for the dissemination of safety information throughout the organization and a means of monitoring the effectiveness of this process?

Element 1.5, Safety Planning, Objective & Goals

  1. Have safety objectives been established?
  2. Is there a formal process to develop a coherent set of safety goals necessary to achieve overall safety objectives?
  3. Are safety objective and goals publicized and distributed?

Element 1.6, Performance Measurement

  1. Is there a formal process to develop and maintain a set of performance parameters to be measured?

Element 1.7, Management Review

  1. Are regular and periodic, planned reviews of company safety performance and achievement including an examination of the company‘s Safety Management System conducted to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy and effectiveness?
  2. Is there a process to evaluate the effectiveness of corrective actions?

Not Knowing Aviation SMS Requirements is not a Valid Excuse

When the aviation SMS auditor visits your airline or airport, you will not be able to plead ignorance. Top management is expected to know what is required of an effective safety management system. It is not like aviation safety management systems fell from the sky last week.

More Resources:

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 and to learn more about SMS Pro™.

1 comment:

  1. Very Interesting post. I found this post late...But I am really impressed with this article for enterprise risk management . ….Thank you for sharing.