Friday, March 15, 2013

Seven Essential Guidelines For Managing SMS Data

7 Guidelines for Managing Aviation SMS Data

Aviation safety management systems, just like quality or environmental management systems depend upon the proper handling of data. Aviation safety professionals are not data management professionals, yet these folks must make decisions that will affect the entire organization for years to come. Properly structured databases and file systems allow aviation service providers to access and mine data in the most efficient manner.

Aviation SMS Data Management Challenges

This article describes some common data management challenges faced by aviation service providers around the world. Being aware of these SMS data management challenges will help safety professional choose a data management strategy that will continue to serve them well for many years.

airline airport aviation safety data management
1) Reported issues not submitted or classified properly is a problem faced most often by organizations of all sizes. This phenomenon occurs in safety management programs when issues are not reported, reported issues are not reported in accordance with accepted organizational standards, or reported issues are not classified consistently and fully. This is a very serious matter. When issues are not reported, but simply "fixed," valuable data may be forever lost. Should managers wish to conduct research to analyze trends to discover ways to improve efficiencies or safety, improper classification of issues would make any attempt to validate the assumptions questionable at best. Also, should an auditor or top management bring questions as to the validity concerning the research or aggregated reports, having the data improperly reported or classified will greatly increase the likelihood that the data's value is questionable. However, one must not go to extremes and spend inordinate amounts of time generating large amounts of data while managing "trivial" issues. What may be important to one organization may be trivial to another.

Aviation Safety Management Software helps manage airline airport aviation safety data management
2) SMS data management not supervised by trained safety managers is another common challenge seen frequently. In this situation the principal safety manager might inappropriately delegate his/her oversight responsibilities to someone else in the company that may be insufficiently trained or qualified to assess risks and classify SMS related issues. Another situation might arise if the principal safety manager simply does not dedicate the appropriate time and effort to fulfill responsibilities related to proper data management. This may occur when the "safety manager" responsibilities are sidelined in favor of other "revenue-generating" activities, like flying or seeking to fulfill "billable" hours.

3) SMS data not maintained in an accessible manner for authorized corporate users affects medium to large-sized businesses more than smaller organizations. This situation often occurs in collaborative environment in which all safety, security and compliance data is maintained by one collaborator, typically the director of safety or assigned safety manager. This situation becomes particularly problematical if each department, such as maintenance, security and flight ops, are responsible for their own data management.  In these cases, data is often stored on individual work stations or on file servers where access is limited by department. In other cases, managers might maintain data in their homes or on their personal laptops, and this can also present problems of access and efficient use of data.

4) Safety, security, quality, compliance or administrative data not maintained properly by responsible personnel. This basically means that the information is not maintained in sufficient detail, is inaccurately recorded, or not maintained in identifiable files. Regulating authorities, external auditors or reviewers would find these matters to be a serious breach of exercising appropriate responsibility regarding the proper management of safety related issues.

aviation sms database software helps manage aviation safety
5) Often in small to medium sized businesses, consultants find that SMS data not stored properly. This commonly occurs with reported issues, audit findings, training and qualifications, and operational policy data. Careless storage of the data that could permit its being destroyed or made unusable is a significant matter and safety managers must ensure their organizational data is being backed up. In many cases, auditors find that aviation service providers and/or their safety managers have acted negligently, have not fulfilled their stewardship duties, and have violated contractual obligations. Best practices dictate that SMS data should be backed up regularly and stored in at least two geographically distinct locations.

6) Each regulating authority and many larger clients, such as major oil companies, have rules regarding SMS data retention requirements. Those involved with managing SMS data know how long different kinds of data must be retained to satisfy all compliance requirements as well as to offer appropriate support in the event of lawsuits or disputes over incidents.

7) Institutional SMS data must retained by the institution at all times or within its control. This is a major problem that occur when safety managers leave the employment of an aviation service provider and takes all the SMS data and does not leave a copy for the institution. In the event access is needed, it places the aviation service provider in an untenable position since it has neither fulfilled its regulatory compliance responsibility nor the duty to the stakeholders.
Safety managers today need to have an understanding of these data management principles, regardless of whether they hire outside SMS consultants or manage their SMS data in-house. The SMS Partners has a team of consultants available at all times to help aviation service providers solve their data management challenges.

Aviation Safety Management Software

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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