Sunday, May 12, 2013

Failing Your Aviation Safety Audit - Next Steps?

What Happens When Failing Aviation Safety Audits?

We've worked with literally hundreds of airlines and airports in the past six years as we've developed, implemented and supported the popular aviation safety management software, SMS Pro. SMS Pro does have safety audit management integrated into the Web based software; therefore, both safety and quality departments use the software to schedule and manage aviation safety-related audits.
airline airport safety audit management software helps manage safety and quality audits

Most airlines and airports look at SMS Pro because they are trying to comply with civil aviation regulatory requirements. They may have a safety audit coming due and the top management starts pressuring safety and quality managers with queries: "Are we going to pass the safety audit?," or "Are we ready for the SMS audit?"

Truth be told, we've had many worried safety manager contact us in the "eleventh hour," and they ask us the logical questions of one in such a predicament:
"How many airline or airports using SMS Pro passed the SMS audit?"
"All of them," we reply, eyebrows raised. "Civil aviation authorities love SMS Pro because it is a complete system and make the auditors jobs easier. We know there is another question about aviation safety audits they should be asking. And....

Only one airline asked me, "How many airlines using SMS Pro failed the safety audit?"

airline airport safety audit management software helps manage safety and quality audits
Safety Audit Management
That is the million dollar question! Let's look at passing/failing the safety audit from another perspective. After all the work of answering questions, catering to the team of safety auditors and sweating over poorly worded questions, the safety or quality auditor is repeatedly asked, "Hey, did we pass our safety (or quality) audit?"

Airline and airport workers who understand nothing about safety or quality audits don't realize there is no passing/failing the safety audit. There are simply findings, concerns, requests for more information, or compliance.

Findings and Concerns in Aviation Safety Audits

Findings are conclusions by safety auditors demonstrating noncompliance with specific standards.

Concerns are conclusions by safety auditors supported by objective evidence that is not a finding, but may become a finding.

airline airport safety audit management software helps manage safety and quality audits

Passing/Failing Internal Safety Audits

Internal audits are performed by airline or airport staff or by consultants. During the inspection process of an internal, the safety auditor uses a pre-defined checklist to serve as a guide in the auditing process. Results are compiled into an audit report containing audit findings, which are the nonconformities or noncompliance issues.

When your airline or airport gets one or two regulatory noncompliance hits, will it pass the internal audit? Remember, that audits aren't simple pass or fail exercises. In most cases, your airline or airport will be in great shape even with less than half a dozen audit findings, or perhaps even 10. You should always see safety audit results in a positive light, because you have identified shortcomings in your airline or airport's safety program. Armed with these data, you can create a list of corrective actions to manage these items. In SMS Pro, we use the Corrective Action Plan.

External Aviation Safety Audits 

civil aviation aviation authority safety audit management for airlines and airports
If you read the section on passing/failing internal safety audits, then the same applies to external safety audits. There is no strict pass/fail. The difference lies with whether this was the airline or airport's initial safety audit, or the recurring safety audit. Furthermore, were the finding and concerns of minor importance or significant.

Civil aviation authorities do pull certificates. And clients, such as oil companies or governmental agencies do refuse business with airlines that do not comply with their standards.

When your airline or airport has the initial safety audit, you will have a set time period to address the noncompliance issues. Failure to comply can result in revoked certificates, denial for initial certification, or lost contracts.

Corrective Action Plan - After the Safety Audit

So your airline or airport received the list of finding and concerns. Don't take this personally. This is an opportunity to improve your safety program. Here is an outline of steps we use in SMS Pro to address safety audit findings and concerns:
  1. All safety audit findings & concerns are pulled into SMS Pro's Issue Manager. They are grouped together under their respective audit.
  2. Safety manager (or quality manager in some cases) then reviews the audit findings and concerns and assigns the item to a responsible manager.
  3. Responsible manager identifies corrective actions and either 1) does the action; or 2) assigns the corrective action to another person in the division.
  4. Once all audit findings and concerns have planned corrective actions, the safety manager generates the Corrective Action Plan. The Corrective Action Plan is simply a list of audit finding and concerns with the planned corrective actions, who they are assigned to, and the status of each corrective action.
  5. Corrective Action Plans are mailed to stakeholders.
Corrective Action Plans are generated automatically by SMS Pro. They can be edited before sending them to stakeholders.

To learn more about SMS Pro's airline and airport safety audit processes built into the Web based software, follow this link.

More Information About Aviation Safety Audit Management Software

Internal Auditors' Reporting Software
Audit Inspection Form Creator
Safety Audit Checklists
Audit Management Systems Integrated into Safety Management Systems
Policy & Audit Elements of Effective Risk Management Programs

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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