Friday, April 5, 2013

Safety Audit Compels Risk Management Workflow Change Toward Issue Responsibility

Aviation Safety Officer Initial Responsibility Toward Reported Accidents/Incidents

When airline or airport employees report accidents and incidents, these reported issues move through a process that may look as follows:

Safety audit find regarding aviation safety officer responsibility
  • Aviation hazard/accident is reported;
  • Safety manager is notified;
  • Safety manager assesses risk;
  • Safety manager classifies issue;
  • Safety manager assigns issue to responsible department head;
  • Department head manages corrective/preventive actions (CPAs);
  • Investigation team conducts investigation (if required);
  • Safety manager closes issue when all items completed (CPAs and investigation);
  • Safety manager monitors/tracks issue for recurrence;
  • Safety team reviews issue on future schedule to validate effectiveness of CPAs.

Aviation Risk Management Responsibility Discovered in Aviation Safety Audit

Airline airport Safety audit find regarding aviation safety officer responsibilityEvery aviation risk management system follows a similar workflow as outlined above. It is the responsibility of every airline/airport employee to report identified hazards and incidents. After the issue has been reported, it then becomes the safety manager's responsibility to ensure the issue is properly managed throughout the lifetime of this issue. Let's not forget that the accountable executive is ultimately responsible, but this responsibility has been delegated to the safety manager.

In many cases, reported issues don't require large teams to mitigate the risk or apply the corrective/preventive actions. Often the safety manager will simply remedy the situation, close the reported issue, and monitor the effectiveness of the applied CPAs. In effect, the safety manager becomes the "responsible manager" for these easily managed issues.

Past SMS Pro Shortcoming Regarding Reported Issue Responsibility

For more than five years, SMS Pro assumed that safety managers would assign a department head to all reported issues. The step is part of the flexible workflow that is optional. In early 2013, Transport Canada aviation safety auditors discovered that sometimes a safety manager would apply the corrective preventive action himself and never formally assign the issue to a department head. In short, the reported hazard or event was unassigned. This was a valid finding. Every reported issue must have an owner. Somebody must be responsible for managing this issue, however trivial it may appear.

When this finding appeared, SMS Pro support staff raised their eyebrows. In an effort to provide a flexible workflow, we overlooked a fundamental tenet in aviation risk management. Every issue must have a responsible manager...

Solution to Aviation Safety Audit's Reported Issue Responsibility

To prevent future aviation safety auditors to apply this finding to other airlines and airports using SMS Pro, the workflow of SMS Pro has been slightly modified.

Since February 2013, issues are automatically assigned to the "default" safety manager for the division for which the issue belongs to. It is important for safety managers to understand the reasoning behind this automatic assignment as outlined above. This information was announced in an email in February 2013, but seems to have been overlooked. Hence this blog post explaining the logic behind the automated assignment of the safety manager as the responsible manager to each reported issue.

How to Change Default Safety Manager Responsibility?

Only the SMS Admin can change the default safety manager for a division. 

To change the default safety manager: 
  1. Go to Setup >> Customize Settings.
  2. Select "Edit" button for the division you wish to manage;
  3. Select a "default" Safety Manager from the dropdown list; and
  4. Select "Update"
If you have any comments or concerns, please contact SMS Pro support staff. We always welcome feedback.

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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