SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

Breaking Down Aviation Safety Management System Parts

Posted by Tyler Britton on Nov 12, 2018 5:15:00 AM

What Is a Management System

Breaking Down Aviation Safety Management System Parts

The idea of a safety management system (SMS) is something those of us in the aviation risk management industry use as if an SMS were one solid “thing.” But a safety management system is actually made up of multiple ideas, packaged into a single, functioning effort for better aviation safety.

These different ideas are found in its name:

  • Aviation;
  • Safety;
  • Management; and
  • System.

Why is it important for you to understand these parts? Because understanding them allows you to define the scope of your SMS. The scope of your SMS may not be the scope of another organization’s SMS. Defining the scope of your SMS means answering questions like:

  • What do you consider as falling under “Safety”? (does this include cybersecurity, physical security, etc.?)
  • What is a System?
  • What does it look like to have Management over a system?

We will explore these questions in this article by breaking down safety management systems parts.

The Aviation in Aviation SMS

This part is pretty straightforward. The “Aviation” in Aviation SMS simply implies that an SMS is specific to aviation operations.

For example, though financial SMS and aviation SMS are both types of SMS, the fact that they are different types drastically alters the nature of the SMS. The fact that an SMS is an aviation SMS means that the SMS has unique:

  • Concerns;
  • Protocol for managing safety;
  • Operational requirements;
  • Procedures; and
  • Compliance requirements.

What Is Safety in Safety Management System

Safety is a fairly vague term that is defined as, “the condition of being protected from danger/risk/injury.” The fact is, there are many ways an aviation service provider can be injured and there are many dangers to an aviation service provider.

Consider the following:

  • People in the organization can be injured or die;
  • Aircraft and vehicles in the organization can be damaged or lost;
  • Equipment in the organization can be damaged or lost;
  • Private or proprietary information may be stolen from an organization;
  • The reputation of an organization can be injured; and
  • An organization may experience a significant financial loss.

All of these examples demonstrate the dangers an aviation service provider faces. Your organization may decide that safety includes any number of the items below:

  • Cybersecurity;
  • Physical security;
  • Physical safety;
  • Environmental safety;
  • Quality of operations;
  • Financial safety; or
  • Reputation stability.

Defining the scope (i.e., documenting it in clear detail) of what safety means in your organization is an important part of detailing what your aviation SMS is responsible for.

Related Aviation Safety Management Systems Articles

What Is a Management System

Tow tractor pulling luggage carts airport

A management system is a set of processes used to manage “findings” during your day-to-day operations.

A finding is simply something you identify or discover that is less than acceptable. A finding is synonymous to an issue. There can be many types of issues, such as:

  • Safety;
  • Security;
  • Audit;
  • Human resources;
  • And so on.

The process of a management system is fairly straightforward. When a finding is made, it is formally processed by submitting a report. The report is then facilitated through a system, such as a safety management system or quality assurance system. The basic steps of all management systems are:

  • Finding identified;
  • Root cause analysis is performed to see what caused the identified problem;
  • Corrective actions are used to correct the identified problem;
  • Update management system design, i.e. document any changes.

How findings are made and how follow-up is facilitated depends on the process being used, such as safety management or quality assurance.

What Is System in Safety Management System

You will organize your SMS design by different systems. A system is simply a logical, separate part or “entity” within the overall scope of your company that includes things like:

  • Its own set of procedures, tasks, etc.
  • Its own set of requirements, roles, personnel; and
  • Its own set of safety risk controls, identified hazards, and identified risks.

The system in SMS implies that the type of procedures, requirements, risk controls, etc. are going to be safety related. Documenting your system means:

  • Thoroughly analyzing all safety aspects of safety;
  • Documenting all resources, such as controls, procedures, policies, technology, etc. related to safety;
  • Documenting all identified hazards and risks associated with your operations; and
  • Documenting high-level expectations for how your SMS will operate.

It’s extremely important to understand that, per ICAO’s 4 Pillars of SMS, a safety system includes the following parts:

  • Promotion;
  • Policy;
  • Quality assurance; and
  • Risk management.

Each of these will require its own set of procedures and requirements.

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Last updated June 2023.

Topics: 1-Safety Policy, Quality-Safety Management

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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