Time Passes Quickly in the Aviation Safety Industry
Over a dozen years have passed since the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) required aviation safety management system (SMS) implementation by the following aviation service providers:
- Aircraft operators;
- Aircraft maintenance organizations (AMOs or MROs);
- Air navigation services providers;
- Helicopter operators;
- Approved training organizations; and
- Airport operators (certified aerodromes).
I'm surprised at how many operators still have not started their SMS. If you have just started your SMS, or are contemplating implementing an aviation SMS, there stands a good chance that your company already has some of the required SMS elements.
An SMS implementation consists of the four-pillars and a dozen elements. There are considerable SMS documentation requirements. Are you ready?
Related Articles on Four Pillars of Aviation SMS
- What Are the 4 Pillars of SMS?
- History of Aviation SMS and Four Pillars - with Free Tools
- Who Started Four Pillars of Safety Management in Aviation?
Here are some quick questions to ask yourself to get started. You will also find some useful resources for aviation SMS implementation.
Which Aviation SMS Elements Do You Already Possess?
It is highly probable that you may already have some of these requirements covered.
- Is senior management committed to safety management? (how to earn top management support)
- Do you have a safety policy? (here are some aviation SMS policy templates)
- Does the safety team have training, qualifications, experience, and skills to manage the safety program? (here are some aviation SMS training providers)
- To identify safety hazards and evaluate any risks, does your company perform change management exercises before starting new activities? (management of change template)
- Does your company have a clear chain of command to ensure safety activities are documented and communicated? Is there an organizational chart illustrating your chain of command? (how to create org chart instructions)
- Have safety goals and objectives been established to address safety concerns?
Related Articles on Aviation SMS Goals and Objectives
- What Are Safety Objectives in Aviation SMS - with Examples
- How to Create Safety Objectives in Aviation SMS with Examples
- How to Shape Your Corporate Vision with Aviation Safety Goals and Objectives
The above-listed items are very common with most aviation service providers. It will be surprising if your organization isn't doing at least three of these activities. What we have seen is that these elements exist, but are not properly documented.
Your next step is to document these elements. A common mistake in SMS implementations across the world is not preparing properly to manage SMS documentation requirements. There is a trend in SMS implementations as safety managers start to document the SMS.
They may start with: Spreadsheets to manage safety reports, hazard register, and training records;
Safety managers then graduate to point solutions or retrofit an in-house system to document SMS activities. The first system implemented will be the safety reporting system. This system may be as simple as email and then copying into spreadsheets.
Safety managers will eventually realize that SMS documentation requirements are highly specialized. SMS auditors become more demanding as time passes. By years four to six, accountable executives realize there is an SMS data management problem when they are not able to monitor SMS performance. This is very troubling to the accountable executive because they are responsible for ensuring the SMS is properly implemented and performing as designed.
When there is no transparency in the SMS data, accountable executives are left vulnerable. There is too much risk and an SMS database reduces risk due to unsustainable data management practices. An SMS database is the best technology to store SMS documentation. There can be no substitute if your company has more than 40 to 50 employees.
Related Aviation SMS Database Articles
- What Is an Aviation Safety Database
- 5 Most Important Things to Know before Buying Aviation SMS Database
- Pros and Cons of In-House SMS Database and Off-the-Shelf-Solutions (COTS)
Final Aviation SMS Implementation Guidelines
Aviation SMS implementations should not intimidate you. The best advice I can give you is to start with a gap analysis.
Choose an appropriate model and perform an internal "self-audit" of the aviation SMS. There are a few aviation SMS software programs to help organize your gap analysis results and create pretty reports, but you don't really need them to get started. If you can get the accountable executive to acquire an SMS database at the beginning of the SMS implementation, you will save considerable time and energy.
If you do get an SMS database, find one that has an SMS manual template and ensure the SMS manual template has some thought put into it. For example, the SMS manual template in the SMS Pro database has cross-references to FAA Part 5 requirements. This FAA cross-reference is a nice-to-have and adds no value unless you are an airline in the U.S. However, an SMS for an airline has the same requirements as an aerodrome.
Below are many free SMS implementations that will serve you well.
Good luck with your aviation SMS implementation.
Last updated January 2023.