SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

How to Be Compliant with ICAO Hazard Identification

Posted by Tyler Britton on Oct 22, 2018 5:40:00 AM

What Are ICAO Hazard Identification Compliance Requirements

How to Be Compliant with ICAO Hazard Identification

ICAO’s hazard identification compliance requirements are twofold:

  • (2.1.1) Develop formal process for hazard identification; and
  • (2.1.2) Use reactive, proactive, and predictive to identify hazards.

Being compliant with these requirements involves, like anything else in SMS, doing and documenting. You need to document your process and how you use various risk management techniques for hazard identification, and you need to follow through.

Let’s break down these requirements piece by piece for how to be compliant with ICAO hazard identification.

Hazard/Issue Reporting Poster

What Is Hazard Identification in Aviation SMS

Hazard identification in aviation SMS programs is the primary data you will use to mitigate risks. With hazard identification, you identify the safety needs of your company and can act accordingly. It is part of the Safety Risk Management element of the 4 Pillars of aviation safety.

Hazard identification is simply awareness and recognition of potential danger in the operational environment. Hazards can be identified by different activities, such as:

  • Reactive risk management activities;
  • Proactive risk management activities; and
  • Predictive risk management activities.

ICAO actually mandates that your SMS attempts to identify hazards with all three types of risk management. All identified hazards should be documented in your hazard risk register and/or operational risk profile, where you can also document how you are mitigating the threat each hazard poses.

Related Aviation SMS Hazard Identification Articles

What Is a Hazard in Aviation SMS

Fireman puts out fire on plane crash

Hazards are one of the core concerns of the safety management system. A hazard fulfills the following requirements:

  • Is a condition, such as an object, situation, circumstance, that poses an unacceptable level of danger;
  • Occurs once in the safety mishap lifecycle;
  • Can lead directly to risk occurrence (i.e., safety mishap, accident, etc.) if not mitigated; and
  • Arise from hazard mechanisms, such as initiating actions and hazardous sources.

It’s quite common for safety managers to confuse hazards with other risk management principles. A hazard is NOT:

  • Benign objects (birds, mountains, people), which are hazardous sources;
  • Safety mishaps, which are another way of saying risk occurrences;
  • Damages, which are a product of risk occurrence; and
  • Dangerous actions, which are associated with initiating mechanisms.

What can and may differ from organization to organization is how each organization defines the point where a situation becomes unacceptably dangerous.

What Is a Formal Hazard Identification Process

In aviation SMS programs, ICAO mandates that your hazard identification process needs to be “formal.” A formal process means that hazard identification processes need to be:

  • Described via documentation;
  • Show evidence of being improved; and
  • Include set steps and processes for identifying via different activities.

Hazard identification processes should be based on a combination of reactive, proactive, and predictive methods of safety data collection.

The reason it’s important to understand hazard identification as a process is because identifying hazards happens as a result of several actions, each of which has several steps. These basic steps are:

  • Build awareness;
  • Build a hazard reporting culture;
  • Actively recognize hazards; and
  • Reporting threats in a formal hazard reporting tool (i.e. aviation SMS software or paper hazard reporting form).

Your documented process for hazard identification should try and reflect these basic steps.

Related Aviation SMS Hazard Identification Process Articles

How to Identify Hazards with Reactive Risk Management

Reactive risk management is an important way to identify hazards

Reactive risk management has kind of a bad reputation in aviation SMS programs. It’s often perceived as the “lowest” or most basic form of risk management.

Reactive risk management is an extremely important way to identify hazards. Indeed, you may identify a majority of your hazards via reactive processes. This is because reactive risk management is an essential element of:

  • Mitigating safety events after hazard has occurred;
  • Identifying new hazards as they are actualized in an operational environment;
  • Minimizing damage from critical safety situations;
  • Acting quickly and efficiently in response to undesirable incidents; and
  • High-quality decision-making in reaction to threats, risk, etc.

Reactive risk management is how personnel see danger and react appropriately to it. This involves documenting:

  • How you educate employees on hazard identification;
  • How you will communicate your expectations for which issues should be reported; and
  • How you will train them on your hazard reporting process.

These documentation elements will show how you promote reactive hazard identification.

How to Identify Hazards with Proactive Risk Management

Proactive risk management is something aviation safety programs strive for. Being able to identify hazards proactively is good for safety and good for compliance performance.

The primary goals of proactive hazard identification are:

  • Identify root causes before they lead to hazard occurrence;
  • Identify potentially dangerous situations before they actually become dangerous; and
  • Understand safety “inputs” of your program – i.e., underlying causes that lead to incidents.

Being able to identify hazards proactively usually involves activities like:

  • Aviation safety audits;
  • Aviation safety inspections; and
  • Aviation safety surveys.

The goal of such activities is to identify problems before they actually pose a real danger. Being compliant means:

  • Documenting how and when you will perform such activities; and
  • Actually following through on them.

How to Identify Hazards with Predictive Risk Management

Predictive risk management attempts to:

  • Identify possible risks in a situation based on given circumstances;
  • Identify new threats in hypothetical scenarios; and
  • Anticipate needed risk controls.

Predictive hazard identification simply means performing predictive risk management operations with the goal of identifying hazards. The way to actually practice this is to document how your various predictive processes include hazard identification, such as how findings will be integrated into your issue management system.

Download hazard reporting system checklist for aviation SMS

Last updated in September 2023.

Topics: 3-Safety Assurance

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.



Benefits of SMS Pro Database

Affordable, Basic Compliance for Small Aviation Service Providers

Best Practices for Aviation SMS


Watch SMS Pro Demo Videos

These two on-demand videos offer:

  • High-level overview of SMS Pro;
  • Hazard Reporting & Risk Management walk-through.
Watch SMS Pro Demo Videos

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts