Vendors as Part of Aviation SMS Initiatives
Aviation safety managers, especially at larger airlines and airports have considerable work to perform, including:
- Learning aviation safety management system (SMS) requirements;
- Determining which SMS elements already exist in the organization;
- Documenting a plan to implement missing SMS elements; and
- Bringing managers and employees into alignment for SMS compliance.
Safety managers often become so engrossed in SMS activities that they overlook vendors, subcontractors and business partners. These associated organizations also fall under scrutiny when the SMS auditors come to assess regulatory and/or contractual compliance with SMS requirements.
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This article discusses how to involve your vendors in your aviation SMS implementation and why you should be performing safety assessments on your vendors.
Use Existing Resources for Vendors in Aviation SMS Implementations
Many aviation service providers already have quality management systems in place, and if you are lucky, your SMS is integrated with your quality management system. This will save considerable work and allow the safety department to utilize existing processes.
If your company does not have a QMS (quality management system), don't be overly disappointed. There will still be opportunities.
There are many use cases that actively involve your vendors in your SMS implementation. These activities may include:
- Hazard reporting (both having vendors report safety issues and associating vendors with other reported safety concerns);
- Assigning corrective actions and preventive actions for identified safety concerns;
- Auditing processes (where you are auditing vendors and managing findings); and
- Safety promotion activities.
In most cases, your SMS implementation already has internal safety tools that can be extended to include other stakeholders. For example, you can include vendors in your web-based aviation safety solution or give them limited access to SMS management tools.
Vendors Should Report Hazards to Your SMS' Safety Reporting System
Vendors, contractors, suppliers and tenants should actively participate in your SMS initiative. At the bare minimum, they should be alert (and alerted) to potential hazards under your responsibility to:
- immediately report safety concerns;
- allow your company to mitigate immediate risk; and
- address the underlying root cause(s).
It is rare that aviation service providers operate in a closed system, without dependencies. In fact, I am unable to think of an operator who is not dependent on suppliers to provide goods or services in order for this operator to perform their mission.
Since each operator is dependent on "external forces" to report hazards to assure operations remain safe, it only makes sense that your company has a "publicly accessible safety reporting system" to allow your vendors and external stakeholders an easy way to participate in your SMS.
If we take this one step further, you should encourage your external stakeholders to report more than real or potential safety hazards. Maximize the utility of your safety program and turn it into an integrated safety and quality management system. Each of these systems shares many common components. Workflows are very similar to improve quality as it is for safety.
Related Articles on Integrated Safety and Quality Management Systems (SMS & QMS)
- What Are Differences of Aviation Safety Management Systems (SMS) and QMS Programs
- QMS Programs vs Aviation Safety Management Systems (SMS)
- Moving from Quality Management to Integrated SMS and QMS Systems
Including Vendors Makes Good Business Sense
Since vendors and external stakeholders share a common interest with you, they should be committed to ensuring your successful operations. When accidents occur, it is not only your company that is affected. Open systems, like the aviation industry, affect everyone, either directly or indirectly.
Doesn't it make sense to allow your vendors to easily participate in your SMS program?
Allowing vendors to participate in your SMS program is not expensive. A simple step (and the least expensive option) is opening up your safety reporting system to allow non-employees to submit safety issues. Of course, it does little good to provide access unless the vendors understand:
- What's in it for them;
- How can they participate; and
- How their participation helps improve system safety.
SMS Pro has several tools that allow vendors to securely interact and participate in your aviation SMS. Since 2007, SMS Pro has worked with hundreds of operators around the globe. To learn how you can benefit from SMS Pro, watch these short demo videos.
Published July 2019. Last updated November 2020.