SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

Checklist to Quantify Resistance to Your Aviation SMS

Posted by Tyler Britton on Oct 17, 2018 4:45:00 AM

How to Quantify Resistance to Your SMS Using This Article

Checklist to Quantify Resistance to Your Aviation SMS

Grab a spare pen and paper so you can write down some notes. What we are looking for is a total score. It works like this:

  • Score is on a scale from 0 – 25
  • Lower number is better, indicating less resistance
  • Higher number is worse, indicating higher resistance
  • Read through each section of this article, learning about the each piece of resistance
  • Perform the exercise in each section and notate your score
  • Total the sum of your score in each section
  • Divide your summed score by 25, to get your resistance score

For example, if after the exercises you have a total score of 7: 6/30 = 20% resistance.

It’s hard to distinguish what a “good” versus “bad” score is, but anything under 25% means you are on the right track. In such a case, you might say that 3 out of 4 employees is on board with the SMS, leaving some room for improvement but indicating a good deal of support for your SMS.

Note also that resistance usually becomes more prominent in larger SMS, with many more employees to manage and promote the SMS with.

Download aviation safety culture checklist

1 – Assess Departments for Silos

Silos are when certain divisions or departments refuse to share SMS related information or responsibilities with others. Namely, this usually means:

  • Departments will not report safety information and try to “handle it” outside of formal channels;
  • Departments will encourage employees not to use formal channels for reporting; or
  • Departments may try and fix problems “off the books,” such as by not documenting corrective actions.

Silos are a form of resistance to your SMS, whereby department heads or employees would rather handle safety outside of the SMS. This can arise for a number of reasons, such as department heads who are insecure about their job or feel a sense of competition with other departments for appearing to be safer.


  1. Make a list of each department, division, or other organizational feature in your company;
  2. Investigate each department for signs of silos, as described above;
  3. Then document your score, based on the following:
    1. 5 points if you have three or more identified silos
    2. 4 points if you have two identified silos
    3. 3 points if you identify one silo
    4. 2 points if no identified silos but some obvious resistance to SMS several departments
    5. 1 point if no identified silos but some obvious resistance to SMS several departments
    6. 0 point if no silos and no obvious resistance among department heads

Resource: How Managers Can Deal With Silos

2 – Rate Level of Support from Upper Management

Upper management support will set the paradigm for how employees accept your safety program. If upper management doesn’t support the SMS, your SMS is not maintainable.

Some signs of good upper management support are:

  1. Adequate budget for SMS;
  2. Accountable executive is aware of safety performance and concerns;
  3. Accountable executive values the safety program;
  4. Upper management does not promote “cutting safety corners” to save time/costs; and
  5. Accountable executive is involved in important safety decisions.

Non-supportive upper management and accountable executive is a killer form of resistance to the SMS. If they don’t want the SMS, the safety program will crumble once person pushing the SMS leaves. We’ve seen it happen over and over.


  1. Honestly consider how supportive management is, based on the points listed above
  2. For each of the above points that your top manager(s) do NOT satisfy, increase your score by one point;
  3. For example:
    1. if top manager(s) do NOT satisfy ANY of the above points, you would mark down 5 points,
    2. if top manager(s) DO satisfy ALL of the above points, you would mark down 0 points

Resource: How To Gain Financial Support for Your SMS

3 – Investigate How Well Employees Follow Policies/Procedures

Employees not following proscribed policies/procedures is one of the most blatant displays of resistance to your SMS.

Sometimes, this is because management has been lazy is creating good procedures or policies. Most often, it is because employees disregard the SMS in favor of doing it “their own way.”

The way to know if this is a problem in your SMS is simply investigating how often “not following procedure/checklist/policy” is a root cause of your reported safety issues.


  1. Briefly investigate each reported issue from past 6 months;
  2. Tally how many issues’ root cause was employee not following policy/procedure/checklist;
  3. Then estimate your score on the 0-5 scale
    1. 0 means no or very few root causes
    2. 5 means it was a consistent root cause

In programs with good culture, they will probably see scores of 0 and 1. In programs with resistance, you are more likely to see scores of 3 and 4. Only programs who greatly struggle with resistance will see a score of 5.

4 – Estimate How Well Employees Report Issues

How well employees report issues is an excellent way to assess resistance to your SMS. Simply put, when employees are actively reporting mandatory and voluntary issues, it indicates low resistance among front line employees.


  1. Review reported issues from past 6 months;
  2. Consider how well reported issues reflect:
    1. Mandatory issues, and
    2. Voluntary issues.
  3. Give yourself a score on a scale of:
    1. 5 points if it’s clear that few employees are using the hazard reporting system to report issues, to
    2. 3 points if mandatory issues are clearly being reported but not many voluntary issues are being reported, to
    3. 0 points if you see an abundance of mandatory and voluntary issue types being reported

5 – Conduct Safety Survey

Lastly, conduct a safety survey and ask pointed questions about how much employees value your safety program.

Resource: 30 Good Questions for Safety Surveys in Aviation SMS

Have answer options on a scale from 1-5, so that you can quantify a total score for each employee, and eventually generate an average survey score across your whole company.


  1. Conduct safety survey across your organization, having answer types as indicated above;
  2. Calculate average score across your organization;
  3. Give yourself a score of:
    1. 0 if average score is 80% or better
    2. 1 if score is 70-80%
    3. 2 if score is 60-70%
    4. 3 if score is 50-60%
    5. 4 if score is 40-50%
    6. 5 is score is below 40%

Final Thought: Calculate Your Total Score

The last thing you need to do is simply calculate your total score, simply by dividing your score by 25 to get a percentage. A good way to look at this score is the percentage of your employees who are resistant to the SMS.

What a “good score” is largely depends on what you find acceptable. For some organizations a good percentage may be 20% or less, for other 30% or less.

Download all aviation safety culture resources - checklists, quizzes, templates, and more

Published October 2018. Last updated August 2019.

Topics: Safety Culture

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body.



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