What Is Transparency in Aviation SMS
Transparency in aviation safety management is concerned with what types information various employee roles have in your company. By “types of information” we are mostly talking about safety concerns that are discovered through hazard reports, audits, etc.
To be clear, your stance on transparency will clearly outline:
- What types of information different safety roles/responsibilities have access to; and
- How much access each role has to those types of information.
Transparency concerns can be as simple and straightforward, or as complex as you want. For example, you may not want all employees to know about audit findings. Then again, you may want that finding report to be available to all employees. Maybe you want safety audit findings available to employees in all departments, but you want security findings from audits to be available to only one team.
Whatever stance you take on transparency, it’s extremely helpful for all employees to understand what that stance is. They can ascertain this through a transparency policy, or commitment to transparency.
What Is included in a Commitment to Transparency
A commitment to transparency, otherwise called a transparency policy, outlines:
- How your company feels about transparency at a high level, such as:
- “We are committed to maintaining open access and a high degree of transparency for information and reported safety issues…”
- “We are committed to keeping your safety reports private, secure, and available only to your manager…”
- Which safety roles in your company can access what information; and
- How much of each information can each role access.
This policy can be about a page long, with usually:
- 1-2 paragraphs describing high level commitment to change; and
- Either one of the following:
- Table displaying safety roles and relevant access levels, or
- 3-4 paragraphs describing safety roles and types of information level they have access to
Different Levels of Transparency
Aviation safety management systems with range from:
- Low transparency – Employees have very limited access to reported information, for example:
- Front line employees can only see issues they report
- Employees cannot see specific actions taken on issues unless management notifies them
- Strict user roles hierarchy in the SMS for view/management/access privileges
- Non-management employees have very little involvement in change management
- High transparency – employees have a lot of access to most reporting information, for example
- Front line employees can see most issues reported in their division/company
- Employees can see actions taken on reported issues
- Some user role hierarchy, either documented or an “informal” hierarchy
- Employees are notified of changes and may be able to weigh in their opinion on the changes
Your organization will likely fall somewhere in between.
Usually, aviation service providers with low transparency have one/some of the following attributes:
- Deal with a lot of sensitive reported information;
- Have clients whose information is very sensitive/privacy concerns;
- Current safety culture is poor; or
- Large organization with numerous safety roles and responsibilities.
Aviation service providers with high transparency tend to have one/some of the following attributes:
- Smaller operator with flexible safety roles;
- Current safety culture is good;
- Provide public service of some sort (i.e., works primarily with public); or
- Handling routine, non-sensitive information.
As said, each organization is different but the above points will be true for many providers.
Factors to Consider When Considering How Transparent to Be
Some good questions to ask about transparency that will help your organization clarify how transparent (and about what types of information) your organization should be are:
- Should front line employees be able to view reports submitted in their division/department?
- Should front line employees be able to view reports submitted in other departments/divisions in the company?
- Should front line employees be able to view what actions and decisions have been made on a reported concern?
- Should employees be notified of submitted issues by management?
- Who manages highly sensitive and confidential issues?
- How involved should employees be in change management?
You company has unique needs and you should customize your transparency stance as you best see fit.
What to Include In Your Commitment to Transparency
You want your commitment to transparency to be clear enough so that all employees understand what your stance is, but no so specific you can’t fit it on one page.
Some important things to make sure you include in your commitment are:
- How much transparency your organization has;
- Justification for transparency level;
- How you will ensure that the committed transparency level will actually happen;
- What safety roles exist in your organization;
- What types of information each role has access to; and
- How much of each type of information each role has access to.
User role/access level is often put into a table that lists each type of information on the X axis, such as:
- Audit findings;
- Safety issues;
- Security issues;
- Reported issues in assigned department;
- Reported issues in other departments;
- Confidential issues; or
- Sensitive issues.
Then, you might include check boxes in each table cell such as:
- Cannot view
- Can view summary of issue
- Can view full report
Each identified safety role in your company is put on the Y Axis. Then you can simply go through each role and type of information, and choose what access level you want. This table should easily allow each safety role in your company to understand:
- What they can view; and
- What others can view when they report an issue.