SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

How to Create Roles for Your Aviation Safety Management System

Posted by Tyler Britton on Nov 22, 2018 6:35:00 AM

What Are Roles in Aviation Safety Management Systems

How to create roles in aviation safety management systems

Roles in aviation SMS are used to categorize different responsibilities of employees in your safety program. Each role in your SMS will be responsible for different areas of your SMS, including different duties to fulfill those responsibilities. SMS roles are assigned to each of your employees.

Developing roles is among the first steps when implementing an SMS, especially when you are using an SMS database to manage safety issues and concerns. So much depends on how you configure your safety hierarchy. Roles should be:

  • Mapped out in your safety org chart;
  • Included in your safety policy, such as by describing each roles responsibility/authority; and
  • Assigned to each individual in your company.

Employees may have more than one role if they fulfill more than one set of duties in your organization, such as being both a safety manager and department head. Over time employees role will change as they are promoted/demoted in your organization. You may even need to add/remove roles as your organization changes.

Resources for getting aviation safety management system started

Purpose of Roles in Aviation Safety

Roles are important in SMS because they allow you to organize the human elements in your safety management system. Roles provide significant benefit by helping you:

  • Define and manage expectations of different employees;
  • Provide guidance to employees for what is expected of them in the SMS;
  • Manage safety training requirements; and
  • Control access to information.

It’s important to keep in mind that roles are not a “concept” but rather a practical necessity. If an SMS is an aircraft, then each role is a different part of the aircraft. Each role has unique responsibilities that help fulfill SMS in terms of:

Without roles, fulfilling these goals are very difficult because responsibilities “fall through the cracks” and don’t get taken care of.

When to Develop Roles in Aviation SMS

Roles should be developed at the very beginning of your SMS. Without a clear picture of how you are defining roles and responsibilities, you will simply rely on “people” rather than the “system.” Roles allow you to create system processes that any employee – new or old – can follow.

If someone knows what role they are in, they know what’s expected of them to fulfill safety goals. When you develop your roles, document them in your safety policy and outline the duties and responsibilities of each one. You cannot complete Phase 1 of SMS implementation without defining roles.

List of Common Roles in Aviation Safety Management

Essential roles that you will see in every aviation service provider’s aviation SMS are:

  • Accountable Executive role;
  • Safety Manager role;
  • SMS User role;
  • Confidential Manager role;
  • Data Entry role; and
  • Subject Matter Expert role (usually called Department Head role).

Important roles you are likely to see in nearly every safety management system include:

  • Confidential Manager role;
  • Investigation Team role;
  • Safety Team role; and
  • Vendor role.

Common roles that you are likely to see in many aviation safety programs are:

  • Investigation Team role;
  • Safety Team role;
  • Vendor role; and
  • Safety Committee role.

Industry-segment specific roles should also be included in your role configuration. For example, an airline might also include roles such as:

  • Pilot;
  • Ground crew;
  • Maintenance; or
  • Air Traffic Control.

Steps to Create Roles in Your Aviation Safety Management System

Creating roles mostly depends on your organization having a clear understanding of the different safety responsibilities you have. Additional factors to consider are:

  • Size of you reorganization;
  • Resources available to your SMS (do you have SMS software, is it a spreadsheet based SMS?);
  • Level of buy in from employees; and
  • Existing processes.

A good rule of thumb is to:

  1. Make a list of all safety responsibilities;
  2. Start out with the essential roles;
  3. List responsibilities for each role;
  4. See which important roles would be good inclusions for your existing processes;
  5. List responsibilities for each important role; and
  6. Then see which responsibilities in your organization are not filled by the roles you just documented.

For example, after performing the above steps you may have an investigation process that is not filled by a role, or a safety committee responsibility that is not filled by a role. Make sure you document these roles in your safety policy and safety org chart.

Managing Roles in SMS (Do They Change?)

Roles in your safety program will change over time. They will change in several ways:

  • Individual employee’s roles will change as they gain or lose responsibilities;
  • The list of roles in your SMS will change as your organization goes through changes.

Organizational changes that affect the roles in your SMS are:

  • Changes in size of your company;
  • Changes in scope of the aviation services you provide;
  • Large scale change management operations; and
  • Change to mission-critical processes.

Don’t be afraid to change roles, just be extremely careful to ensure that changes don’t leave any responsibilities without a role to manage them.

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Published November 2018. Last updated January 2019.

Topics: 1-Safety Policy, Safety Roles and Responsibilities

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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