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What Are Static & Dynamic Components of Aviation Safety Auditing?

Posted by Mario Pierobon on May 4, 2021 6:00:00 AM Find me on:

Aviation Safety Auditing for SMS Programs

What Are Static & Dynamic Components of Aviation Safety Auditing?

Auditing is a management practice that is very common in most industrial domains and for a variety of different purposes.

Administrative personnel, for example, are very familiar with financial auditing.

Professionals working under a quality management system certification are familiar with quality auditing.

Lawyers and other professionals dealing with regulatory compliance undergo audits focusing on compliance.

Modern aviation safety programs also require auditing and this tutorial explains the origins of safety auditing and aims to supply some guidelines on how to implement a solid safety auditing practice in the context of an aviation safety management system (SMS).

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What Is Auditing?

The verb ‘to audit’ is derived from the Latin verb ‘audire’, the literal translation of which is ‘to hear well’. An audit is a structured form of control that is exercised over a set of practices in order to get an appreciation of ‘how well’ these practices are being implemented.

Aviation Audit Management Solution

Safety Audits Are Not Safety Inspections

An audit is very distinct from an inspection. The latter is normally not expected at the end of those who actually receive it and it normally focuses on a small part of, e.g., a manufacturing plant and/or only on specific functions, e.g. the use of personal protective equipment by line employees.

An audit is normally expected by those who receive it. An audit requires significant preparation from those being audited in terms of documentation that needs to be supplied to the auditor(s).

Inspections are conducted to get a feel of how normal working practices reflect the aviation industry's best practices and/or regulatory standards an aviation service provider must comply with; audits serve to ensure that control practices are in place to ensure that compliance is established across a business.

What Auditing Has Traditionally Been

What is auditing in aviation safety management systems (SMS)

Auditing has historically been associated with two terms:

  • Quality; and
  • Compliance.

Quality management is the practice from which the modern meaning of ‘audit’ as a management tool has been derived.

One of the components of the very famous ‘quality loop’ of Deming – plan-do-check-act (PDCA) – is ‘check’ and audits specifically serve a checking purpose and as such, they are contemplated within international standards for quality management, such as the ISO 9000 family of standards. Quality systems are in place to ensure that products and services meet customers’ requirements.

Aviation quality systems have been implemented in the past with a particular definition attributed to the word "quality". Quality systems have been implemented not with the purpose of ensuring that customers’ requirements are met, but with the overall aim to ensure that a particular set of requirements – e.g. being transported safely from A to B – are met by the suppliers of aeronautical services.

With the implementation of quality systems, the aim was to ensure the satisfaction of customers’ requirements for safety by focusing on aviation service providers’ compliance with clearly defined and universal regulatory safety standards.

Within aviation quality systems, audits serve the purpose of checking that service providers operate legally.

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What Is Aviation Safety Auditing

The underlying assumption of aviation quality systems dealing with regulatory compliance only is that ‘one size fits all’, namely that all regulatory standards must be followed by the regulated service providers. Indeed the character of regulatory standards is very generic, they stand as high-level safety objectives.

The relatively recent introduction of safety management systems has as the underlying assumption that there is no ‘one size fits all approach. This is especially true when it comes to embedding into working practices the high-level safety requirements of regulations and that organizations must proactively engage in identifying safety hazards peculiar to their operations and develop controls over them in a performance-based fashion, i.e. by looking at their peculiar organizational contexts.

Aviation safety auditing serves the purpose of checking that service providers indeed manage safety in a performance-based fashion.

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How to Perform Safety Audits - the Static Component

Safety auditing has two main components: a ‘static’ one and a ‘dynamic’ one.

The ‘static’ component of safety auditing is very much the old school of traditional auditing. What is audited against is a purposely developed checklist with items that should compose an SMS together with deadlines for implementation of each specific item.

The ‘static’ audit checks whether the SMS is working as it is supposed to work in accordance with the original SMS implementation plan. Appendix 7 to Chapter 5 of ICAO’s Safety Management Manual provides a template for an SMS gap analysis checklist and implementation plan that can be customized in accordance with the needs of service providers.

Dynamic Component of Aviation SMS Auditing

The ‘dynamic’ component of safety auditing concerns the integration of the safety performance monitoring and measurement component into the SMS, by means of monitoring safety performance indicators (SPIs). This part of safety auditing is considered dynamic because it liaises directly with the ‘live’ component of the SMS.

Auditing the SMS implementation status is ‘static’ because it merely looks at whether everything that should be in place is in place. Safety performance monitoring and measurement allows us to understand how well all the SMS components are integrated and how well the SMS is working in terms of improved or improved safety performance.

In addition, ‘dynamic’ safety auditing should look at the formal process to

  • Develop and maintain a set of safety performance indicators (SPIs) and their associated performance targets;
  • The correlation established between the SPIs and the organization’s safety objectives where applicable;
  • The process of regulatory acceptance of the SPIs where required, and
  • The process of monitoring the performance of these SPIs, including remedial action procedures whenever unacceptable or abnormal trends are triggered, according to ICAO’s SMM.

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Here are four audit checklists to evaluate your SMS.

Download Safety Audit Checklists

Last updated January 2024.

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.



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