Elements of Safety Risk Management (SRM)
Safety Risk Management receives by far the most attention of any aspect of aviation safety management systems (SMS). It is, as you might say, “where the action is,” in terms of managing risk and the most focused-upon element in an aviation SMS.
Despite the fact that other aspects of aviation risk management processes provide equally valuable assistance in developing an aviation SMS, SRM deals most directly with risk exposure.
SRM is complex, as it:
- Requires as much “documenting what you are doing,” as “doing it”;
- Will be the area of your SMS program where you develop risk management tools; and
- Has many working parts needed to adequately practice SRM.
In this discussion, we'll explore the 4 important elements of Safety Risk Management (SRM).
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1 - Safety Risk Management Is a Process
The most important thing to always keep in mind about SRM is that it is a process. This process is circular and loops back upon itself in a never-ending fashion. And this is what one would expect from a fully-functional risk management system: the ability to perpetually demonstrate continuous improvement in an ever-changing environment.
Different industries will use SRM slightly differently, such as by stressing the importance of different SRM elements, but the basic principles are the same everywhere:
- Hazard identification, including identification of risks, mechanisms of hazards, and other safety weaknesses;
- Understand the safety behavior (human factors) and bureaucracy that influence safety; and
- Development of control measures designed to mitigate exposure.
Other resources online will usually identify anywhere from 3-5 stages in the risk management process, but the basic points are understanding hazards and risks and then taking measures to control them.
2 - SRM Is One of the 4 Components/Pillars of SMS
The four components, (also referred to as "pillars") of SMS are the cornerstone of safety. They were created by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and every civil aviation authority uses the four pillars as the centerpiece of their SMS requirements.
As said, while the four pillars are supposed to be equal, in actuality SRM receives the most treatment from aviation service providers and civil aviation authorities.
Why is it important that SRM is one of the four pillars? Because it acknowledges the fact that SRM is a worldwide-acknowledged cornerstone of safety management systems:
- Determines need for risk controls;
- Evaluates adequacy of existing controls; and
- Assesses whether or not areas of exposure are within acceptable limits.
These are the basic components of the SRM process as defined by most civil aviation authorities.
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3 - Assess and Control Hazards, Risk, and Consequences
Much of safety risk management quality revolves around the ability to adequately assess various safety elements such as:
- Effectiveness of safety risk controls;
- Likelihood of hazard or mishap occurring;
- Most realistic level of severity should the hazard manifest itself; and
- What kinds of risk control measures are needed to reduce exposure?
The ability to control these elements will depend on the ability to assess them. Poor assessments lead to poor controls. Assessments include tools and processes, including:
- Risk analysis;
- Hazard and risk register; and
- A risk matrix.
Based on the findings of the analysis and assessment, safety managers should be able to identify which hazards and risks need managing in order to maintain acceptable levels of risk exposure. Risk controls include, but are not limited to:
- Administrative safety policy and procedures;
- Aviation safety training;
- Revised operational processes to eliminate or reduce risk;
- Engineering controls to isolate people from hazards;
- Personal protective equipment (PPE);
- And so on.
During aviation SMS implementation, this aspect of SRM will occupy much of a safety manager’s time.
Related Articles on Risk Assessments in Aviation SMS
- How to Identify Hazards and Assess Risks in Aviation SMS Programs - with Free Resources
- How to Assign Severity and Likelihood to Issues When Assessing Risk
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4 - Define Acceptable Level of Safety (ALoS)
Acceptable Level of Safety (ALoS) establishes an aviation service provider’s minimum level of acceptable risk for a hazard or risk. Acceptable describes the need for no further mitigatory actions on the part of the service provider for the safety concern in question. This valuation will be made based on the probability and severity of the safety concern in question.
Absolute safety is impossible. At the same time, service providers need to be able to establish thresholds for how much risk is acceptable. ALoS is the answer to this problem. What this means is that ALoS marks the point at which, for a given hazard/potential mishap:
- The current level of safety performance is satisfactory;
- It would be impractical or far too expensive to take the measures needed to lessen exposure; and
- Risk controls are strong enough that the residual risk is willingly taken on by the service provider.
It’s up to each provider to establish how much exposure is and what isn’t acceptable. In this way, service providers define their ALoS and then show to civil aviation authorities (e.g., with safety data), that they operating within an acceptable range of risk.
Have You Seen These Articles on Risk Control Measures
- How to Monitor the Effectiveness of Control Measures
- Difference between Hazards, Risks & Control Measures in Aviation SMS
- What Is a Risk Control in Aviation SMS: Meaning, Purpose, Application
Final Thought: SRM Relation to Other Pillars
While SRM is stressed more than other pillars, it nevertheless depends upon them.
- Safety Assurance monitors SRM processes to ensure that SRM is working (SRM is designed and SA tests the design);
- Safety Promotion develops the kind of aviation safety culture that allows SRM/SA relationship to flourish; and
- Safety Policy documents many SRM resources, activities and affords employee protections to participate in SA monitoring activities.
For more information about SRM, you will find the FAA’s SRM overview very helpful for a full analysis of this process.
Last updated in July 2023.