Saturday, February 16, 2013

Policy & Audit Elements of Effective Risk Management Programs

Aviation SMS Safety Policy & Audits

Without a doubt, every aviation service provider is different. Airline and airport aviation safety management systems (SMS) should be designed to address the specific needs of individual airlines and airports. All formal SMS programs will have these two common elements:
In this short article, we will discuss SMS Policy and Audits elements of an effective ICAO SMS Program.

Aviation safety policy
Aviation Safety Policies Come from the Top

Airline & Airport Safety Policy

Every basic aviation risk management program, whether it is for an airport, airline, charter operator, aviation maintenance organization (AMO or MRO), requires a statement of the operator's objectives and the responsibilities of the company, top management, line staff managers, and workers. This statement, typically called an aviation safety policy, typically states:
  • The CEO, top management commitment to the SMS program
  • Airline/Airport commitment to protect the safety of workers and all stakeholders
  • The objectives and priorities of the operator's SMS program
  • The safety duties and responsibilities of the top management, line supervisors, and workers
Effective aviation safety policies should be simply written and easy to understand. They do not need to be long, drawn out novels. After all, the aviation safety policy is not designed for "show," but to be actually read and understood by all employees. Therefore, keep it simple, clear and concise.

The written aviation SMS policy should be signed by the CEO or the most senior manager, whatever his title may be. It should be dated and reviewed annually. All workers should be made aware of the policy and its importance. For example, it could be given to all new workers and posted in the workplace, or on the aviation service provider's Web site. Some modern Web based aviation safety management systems have polices and procedures integrated into the aviation risk management software.

Regular Safety Audits and Inspections

Regular audits and inspections of the workplace are intended to:
aviation safety audits and inspections
  • Identify conditions and unsafe acts with the potential to cause injury or damage to equipment
  • Determine necessary corrective measures
  • Prevent unsafe operating conditions from developing
  • Ensure industry standards and best practices are being followed

Three different kinds of audits and inspections are described below:
  • Regular, planned workplace audits and inspections: Inspect buildings, structures, grounds, aircraft, tools, equipment, machinery, and work methods and practices for hazards that might cause injury or damage to aircraft or the environment. Schedule these audits and inspections at appropriate intervals to prevent unsafe conditions developing. Depending on the aviation service provider and the type of hazards that might develop, audits and inspections may be scheduled daily, weekly, or monthly.
  • Equipment audits and inspections: Workers should be trained to inspect their machinery, tools, and equipment regularly, following the manufacturer’s minimum recommendations. National regulatory agencies may also have specific requirements. 
  • Special audits and inspections: National civil aviation regulatory agencies typically require special inspections or audits after certain types of events to ensure that operations do not resume until it is safe to do so.

Airline & Airport Audits and Inspections

SMS inspection teams typically include both worker and management representatives. Very often, a third-party auditor regularly conducts these audits and inspections. SMS auditing teams should be familiar with the work flow process and, whenever possible, include members of the joint safety committee or the company's safety representative.

Aviation Safety Audit Checklists

aviation SMS safety audits and inspections
Safety Audits Serve Serveral Purposes
Inspection checklists can help ensure that audits and inspections are thorough, results are recorded, and the inspection process is standardized. A checklist is particularly useful in guiding those unfamiliar with the
inspection process. Checklists should be adapted to suit the needs of each aviation service provider's unique operations.

Safety audit checklists can also be used as a guide for the airline and airport to prepare for the audit or inspection. The audit and inspection should never be a "surprise," and advance warning of audits are almost always provided in advance. Therefore, using auditors' checklists as "pre-audit checklists" offers several benefits to the airline or airport, including training, convenience and time and cost savings.

Managing Safety Audit Findings and Concerns

Any unsafe or harmful conditions found during a regular inspection or audit should be reported immediately to the supervisor or employer and remedied without delay. This is commonly done through the airline or airport's hazard reporting system. When auditing processes are well-integrated into an operator's risk management processes, the work flow is seamless and saves considerable time and money in labor savings to manage these findings and concerns.

Document and communicate all significant findings and concerns for future reference. Each hazard or inconsistency identified should be recorded and the corrective actions taken to eliminate or control each item. Ensure to communicate this information to the joint safety committee for their review and approval.

Auditing is an iterative process when you consider the work flow over the course of several years. Audits and inspections offer airlines and airports an opportunity to improve operations and serve as an effective tool to educate managers and employees alike on the safe business practices. With this in mind, one should not always view safety audits as a waste of time, but as an opportunity.

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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