Aviation Safety Policy? More than Just Empty Words...
Safety managers are commonly the invisible authors to many safety policies show-cased at airlines and airports worldwide. After all, they are the subject matter experts and the accountable executive is busy doing "accountable executive stuff."
When you are assigned to manage an airline or airport's safety management system (SMS), one of the first tasks is to either create or review the aviation safety policy.
Where do you begin? How many words should it be? What writing style should this safety policy adapt? Am I writing to impress management? Or am I writing for the lowest common denominator?
This article hopes to answer these questions and also offer a free template for you to either:
- Start your airline or airport's safety policy; or
- Review your safety policy against one of the free policy templates.
Creating an Aviation Safety Policy That Resonates!
There are so many elements that safety managers must consider when drafting a safety policy for management approval. Let's be honest. How many accountable executives are writing their own safety policies? This is implicitly passed to the safety manager who then provides the content for the executive's signature.
When drafting your safety policy, write it so an eight grader can read it. Unfortunately, most adults have an eight-grade reading level. Best practices to follow include:
- Using short sentences;
- Avoid ambiguous words or fluff;
- Use bullet points to break up content; and
- Effectively use white-space to make the document less formidable.
Less Is More for Aviation Safety Policies
When writing your airline or airport's safety policy, be genuine and to the point. The truth is that most users will only glance through the high points. This is why bullet points and white-space are important for your end-users.
When you start adding sweet sounding, idealistic phrases to the safety policy, your users are going to roll up their eyes and think, "here is another batch of bull from management."
Remember, there are many important elements to a safety policy. There is no room for fluff else your readers will no bother to read it.
Safety Policies Don't Have to Be Perfect the First Time
Most already have a safety policy. It is possible that your airline or airport's safety policy was:
- Copied directly from an online resource;
- Created by a safety consultant (who probably copied from #1);
- Inherited and unmodified from an SMS program developed years ago; or
- Never reviewed critically after the initial creation and acceptance by the accountable executive.
The point is: your safety policy must be reviewed on a regular basis. Apply changes as environmental pressures cause your airline or airport to change.
A document that the policy was reviewed. Place "Last reviewed by xxxx" and "Date" artifacts onto the document so auditors can see this policy is a living, breathing document.
Start from a Template When Creating or Revising a Safety Policy
Don't bother recreating the wheel when creating your safety policy. You will be wasting considerable time. Start with a template. Templates are also useful when reviewing an existing safety policy. After all, every ICAO compliant aviation safety management system (SMS) must have a mechanism in place to ensure all policies and procedures are reviewed regularly.
Reviewing aviation policies and procedures doesn't have to be elaborate. Either put a reminder into your work calendar or schedule the task with your aviation SMS software tool of choice. More popular, full-featured aviation SMS software tools have built-in safety policies and procedures modules that make your policies and procedures available too.
Final Thoughts on Aviation Safety Policies
Many companies don't take their safety policy seriously. During the initial SMS implementation, the safety policy is often a rushed requirement that is simply:
- Drafted for the accountable executive;
- Put into a book; and
This was not the intent of the safety policy. When performed earnestly at airlines and airports, the safety policy exercises a powerful influence in shaping the safety culture. In fact, the safety policy becomes the bedrock of your airline or airport's SMS program.
Below are some safety policy templates we've acquired over the past eight years. Use them as guides. Plagiarize them if you like, but please change the company name wherever appropriate. We hope you find them useful.