What Is Safety Communication in Aviation SMS
Safety communication in aviation SMS is simply another way of sharing data.
Safety communication IS data sharing. This data sharing happens in several ways:
- Sharing data with compliance authorities;
- Sharing data with other service providers; and
- Sharing data with employees and contractors.
Safety communication has significant implications in safety culture and transparency. You might even say that transparency is simply how much information you communicate.
These are important points because the term “safety communication” does not quite capture the fact that what we are really talking about is:
- The type of safety culture management practices;
- The type of relationship management has with front line employees and other organizations; and
- How much trust management has in employees.
In programs with poor safety culture, it’s generally the practice that management restricts communication – i.e., withholds data – and with good reason too. It’s important that your company adheres to its own best practices of safety transparency, but also maintains safety communication compliance. Here are the three ways to be compliant with ICAO's safety communication requirements.
1 - Share Information (External Safety Communication)
The first element of safety communication compliance in aviation SMS is to practice data sharing with external agencies, such as your compliance authority. Some examples of this are:
- European Coordination Centre for Accident and Incident Reporting (ECCAIRS);
- Aviation Safety Action Plan (ASAP) reporting;
- Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS); and
- Other mandatory compliance reporting for certain issues.
Reaching compliance for this portion of safety communication simply involves:
- Actually reporting mandatory and/or voluntary issues to compliance authorities;
- Sharing your data with other service providers; and
- Most importantly, having documentation to prove that you shared/reported data.
Proof of sharing could be via a software, such as automatic ASAP/ASRS reporting, a physical receipt from the post office, etc.
2 - Evidence of Safety Internal Communication
The second portion of safety communication compliance is having a strong background of internal communication, including documentation of such. This type of communication extends well beyond simply emailing, including things like:
- Company safety meetings (including what info what shared and who was present);
- Safety newsletters;
- Reported issues made available to company;
- Message boards;
- Lessons learned library; and
- Other safety data displayed physically.
Basically, you just need to have a record that employees are receiving important safety information.
3 - SMS Guidance Is Accessible and Communicated
The last element requires that your employees have ready access to guidance on your safety program. This guidance is usually your:
- Safety Policy;
- SMS Manual; and
- Resources to manage safety, like checklists and training materials.
Being compliant means:
- Making your guidance readily accessible in multiple locations, such as physically, online, or on a company server;
- Proof that you have made an effort to communicate this guidance; and
- Proof that employees have reviewed guidance materials.
Good Ways to Communicate Safety in SMS
Some best practices for communicating safety are:
- Having very clear internal rules or guidelines on role-based access to data – i.e., who can see what;
- Having many ways of implicitly and explicitly communicating data, such as:
- Implicit: an issue manager which displays reported issue summaries;
- Explicit: Sending out monthly newsletters
- Be as transparent with safety information as possible, as sharing too little or too much can hurt your safety culture.
Safety communication is very important, and it would be a good idea to specifically outline a plan for:
- How you will communicate;
- How you handle transparency; and
- How you will document your communications to ensure compliance.
Published August 2018. Last updated April 2021.
A7-AEJ Qatar Airways Airbus A330-302 coming in from Hamad Int´l Doha (DOH / OTBD) @ Frankfurt Rhein-Main International (FRA / EDDF) / 16.03.2014 image by Oliver Holzbauer