Sunday, February 10, 2013

How to Keep Aviation SMS Manuals Current

Keeping Aviation SMS Manuals and Documentation Current

Current documentation that is regularly reviewed remains essential for airlines and airports to operate safely and efficiently while abiding by current aviation safety regulations and standards. Each certificated airline and airport must maintain SMS documentation that addresses:

  • Identification of applicable regulations, standards and practices; 
  • Coherent documentation describing each component of the SMS;
  • Documentation detailing interrelationships between the elements;
  • Documented policies and procedures to manage changes to documentation; and
  • Records management policy and procedures. 

SMS Pro is a Web based aviation safety management software solution for airlines and airports to manage their ICAO mandated aviation SMS requirements. SMS Pro covers all four pillars or components as described in the ICAO SMS documentation.

Web Based Modules for Aviation SMS Documentation

Aviation Safety Management Software SMS Manuals
Airlines & Airports Have Complex Open Systems
SMS Pro has several modules that address these documentation requirements, including;
  • Policies and Procedures;
  • Duties and Requirements of Key Safety Personnel;
  • Applicable Regulations; and
  • Version Controlled Documentation Manager.

Every airline and airport (also flight schools, aviation maintenance MROs, FBOs and corporate operators) must have  processes for documenting applicable regulations by which it is regulated for the particular operator's applicable activities. Most airlines and airports hurriedly created an SMS Manual to house all this documentation with little thought on how to manage this content. After all, this aviation SMS documentation must be regularly reviewed and an audit trail must be available demonstrating that this documentation is "regularly reviewed."

Aviation SMS Documentation Must Be Available to All Employees

Since early 2009, SMS Pro included modules that satisfied the above requirements. These modules conveniently resided within the aviation safety management program and were available to employees. SMS Pro allowed airlines and airports to position their aviation SMS documentation in a manner that promotes its usage. Policies and procedures are often placed in context, such as the "Non-punitive Reporting Policy," "CEO Commitment to Safety," "Hazard Reporting Policy," and "SMS Induction Policy."  (Side note: here is a link to sample aviation safety policy statement templates if you need them) This means that when a user visited a module to perform a routine duty, the policy or procedure was easily available to reference.

SMS Manuals Are Seldom Available to All Employees

Without an electronic means of securing and making available applicable aviation SMS documentation, airlines and airports have difficulties demonstrating that all employees have access to required documentation. Furthermore, updating this documentation becomes more difficult when the SMS manuals are paper based or residing on the PC back at the office. Therefore, having a Web based system that documents reviews and allows for editing online, regardless of your location, has many benefits.

In the real world, SMS manuals and documentation is seldom available to all employees as required by the regulations. Having manuals sitting on a dusty shelf in the manager's office cannot be reasonably considered as "available."

Maintaining Current Aviation SMS Manuals and Documentation

Each airline and airport has the responsibility to keep their regulatory and organizational documentation current and to ensure these processes are audit worthy. When changes to aviation SMS documentation are required,  operators need documented processes to ensure these changes are implemented and provide guidance to employees or contractors tasked with these duties.

Operators must be proactive in addressing required changes to documents and procedures. When the airline or airport creates the process for documentation currency, the process must provide for early identification of necessary changes to its policies and procedures.

How to Identify the Need to Change Policies and Procedures

Aviation SMS programs must monitor processes to ensure they are effective. In large, complex open systems, such as airline and airport operations, there are many procedures and processes to monitor. As the years pass, how do you track which processes continue to remain effective and those that require change?

SMS Pro's Policies and Procedures module is now directly integrated into the risk management framework. When classifying issues, safety managers can now drag and drop related policies, procedures and processes that are associated with reported hazards, accidents and incidents. Many reports exist to monitor trends and automatically alert management of developing trends. These reports and alerts trigger management action to review and possibly modify policies and procedures to enhance operational effectiveness in an ever-changing environment.

Automated Alerts Based On Dates to Review Aviation SMS Manuals 

SMS Pro has automated alerts for each policy and procedure that fires when the configured review date approaches. These alerts serve as the process to ensure aviation SMS documentation is periodically reviewed and regulatory information is updated to ensure the most current information is available to all employees. For example, your airline or airport may have a policy to review CAA regulations and update applicable regulations as necessary. After updating the information, either a newsletter or message notification can be sent to affected employees. SMS Pro has all this functionality built in.

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™.

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