Safety Promotion Places Safety into Our Conscious Zone
An aviation safety management system (SMS) can encompass many different elements but has one overarching goal: improve aviation safety.
The best way to achieve that goal depends on what kind of SMS you participate in. Not all SMS implementations are equal. Some operators merely want to check the box. Others may have a distrustful attitude toward management. Consequently, the type of SMS implementation, as well as the "potential" effectiveness of the SMS will be dependent on:
- Management's goals and objectives for the SMS;
- Available budget; and
- What type of safety culture is in the company.
One of the four key components of SMS includes Safety Promotion.
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The intent of Safety Promotion component is to:
- Ensure employees are trained in SMS commensurate to the role they play in the SMS;
- Ensure employees understand that participation is mandatory; and
- Continually keep "safety" at the forefront of their minds by regularly promoting the SMS.
The more the idea of being safe is put out there, the more it is talked about. The more safety is talked about, the better chance that it will be thought of in times of need and hopefully encourages safe behaviors.
Good SMS Implementations Embrace Safety Promotion
As a pilot, a good SMS is all about spreading the word and ensuring that all pilots are aware of all safety hazards that could affect their flight. At the college I go to, the aviation department has an effective SMS that it has developed over the years. Our college's aviation SMS includes two parts:
- Anonymous safety board; and
- Mishap response plan.
The first, an anonymous safety board is open to students, instructors, and various staff. The anonymity of the discussion encourages participation because it relieves the blame if safety accidents were to occur. Anonymity also encourages flight school stakeholders to share what happened for the sake of making sure it doesn’t happen again.
Many students post tips on the anonymous safety board about:
- Fuel management; and
- Ensuring that you don’t suffer from fuel starvation.
Also, many safety posts help to encourage those participating in flight training that you can almost never be too cautious. One of the recent posts on the safety board includes this statement about balked landings:
- "Too high? Too fast? Just looks sketchy? It is always acceptable to perform a go-around."
I enjoy reading posts like these because they help remind me that I’m not the only one that sometimes has safety questions and or concerns. The anonymous safety board is a good way to both share and receive feedback that encourages an evolving safety culture.
The second part of my school’s SMS includes a mishap response plan, also commonly known as an emergency response plan. In case an accident or incident was to occur, the plan outlines suggested actions for both the administration and involved parties to help alleviate stress and encourage proper reaction.
Related Aviation Safety Promotion Articles
- Aviation SMS Surveys - an Often Neglected Safety Promotion Tool
- 10 Best Ways to Promote Safety in Your Aviation SMS [With Free Checklist]
- Best Ways to Promote Safety in Your Organization (with Free Resources)
Comparing Flight School SMS to Regional Airline SMS
I recently compared our flight school's SMS program to Horizon Air’s SMS. Horizon is a regional airline that I would have thought to have a more complex and even more effective SMS implementation.
I came to find out that Horizon's SMS was more complex, and by and large, more effective. Yet when you look at the foundation of what makes Horizon's SMS successful is very similar to what my college has.
Horizon’s SMS is composed of more parts and a lot more requirements of the pilots and staff. Horizon and many other airlines have what you call a Pilot Irregularity report. One of these is required to be filled out and evaluated for a possible solution every time something on or beyond the list occurs. This includes items like:
- a flap over speed,
- an aborted takeoff, or
- a go around.
If too many reports are collected for the same safety hazard, the board implements new control measures like:
- more extensive flight training; or
- outlining new operations limitations to ensure the hazard does not constantly recur.
Horizon also asks for pilot participation in a program called Aviation Safety Action Program, or ASAP. This is a reporting system encouraged to all pilots who may be under the investigation by the FAA for a particular accident. The pilot discloses information on the accident, telling his or her side of the story.
ASAP actually offers the chance for pilots to voluntarily disclose safety-related events without the fear of losing their certificate. Encouraging employees to report without fear of retribution allows a higher number of safety issues and concerns to be
- corrected, and
- communicated to affected personnel.
Final Thoughts about Safety Promotion in Aviation SMS
Irregularity reports and voluntary self disclosure reports do what I think is the most important part of SMS: increase the amount of data collection by encouraging participation in these programs.
The more knowledge we have on what risks result in certain outcomes, the faster we can begin isolating and mitigating the safety problem to the best of our abilities.
An easy-to-use safety reporting system is the first step to collecting valuable safety data. Here are some short demo videos with examples that highlight essential features your safety reporting system should have:
- Safety reporting forms that actually reduce end-user friction;
- Risk management interface to assess risk and track corrective and preventive actions; and
- Easy-to-use risk analysis charts.
Last updated July 2022.