SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

What Good Hazard Reporting Process Look Like in Mature Aviation SMS

Posted by Tyler Britton on Oct 5, 2017 6:46:45 PM

What Is the Hazard Reporting Process

What Good Hazard Reporting Process Look Like in Mature Aviation SMS

Simply put, the hazard reporting process is the primary mode of data acquisition in aviation safety management systems (SMS). Being such, a poor hazard reporting process can literally break your SMS. If that sounds unrealistic, it’s not.

Without data:

Poor hazard reporting processes cripple data acquisition in SMS. Consider further that hazard reporting is your primary means of furthering hazard identification and subsequent risk management activities. Hazard reporting processes are:

  • First barrier against repeat dangerous situations;
  • Primary way to respond to identified hazards;
  • Basis upon which all risk management and safety decisions are made; and
  • Main catalyst for driving the creation of new risk controls.

Related Articles on Aviation Hazard Reporting

The benefits of developing a good hazard reporting process are:

  • Saves company money by avoiding dangerous situations;
  • Helps build safety culture;
  • Provides a significant amount of data for good safety decisions; and
  • Assures accountable executives their SMS is performing.

Download hazard reporting system checklist for aviation SMS

Markers of Best in Class Hazard Reporting Process for Real SMS

Top-quality hazard reporting processes have many if not all of the following features:

  • Hazard reporting is quick and easy (a stranger could do it without training);
  • Hazard reporting is convenient (such as from cell phone);
  • Hazard reporting is digital – no manual paper forms;
  • Multiple (digital) forms for different types of incidents;
  • Forms that capture only most relevant information;
  • Employees can report anonymously;
  • There are multiple ways to report hazards, such as via email, computer, website, phone, etc.;
  • Offline reporting is a major bonus, as many aviation personnel periodically find themselves without internet service; and
  • Clear expectations about what happens with hazard reports (i.e., ability to track report progress).

Quality hazard reporting forms will capture enough information so that the safety manager doesn’t need to request more information, but not so much information that filling out the form is very tedious.

You can see in the above bullet points that the major themes in the quality hazard reporting process are that the process is quick, convenient, and thorough. The primary goal when developing your hazard-reporting process is to stimulate a hazard-reporting culture.

When aviation service providers have good safety cultures, their hazard reporting activity will naturally indicate this. A good rule of thumb for healthy safety cultures is to have one safety report for every ten employees each month. For example, if your company has 400 employees, then you should expect 40 safety reports each month.

Related Aviation SMS Safety Culture Articles

Are you looking for a nice safety promotion poster to positively influence your hazard reporting culture?

Hazard/Issue Reporting Poster

What Quality Hazard Reporting Culture Looks Like in Real Life

Ground crew at airport

A good example of what a high-quality hazard reporting process looks like in real life is this:

  1. Employee immediately and conveniently accesses hazard reporting from their phone or computer;
  2. They can choose to submit the report anonymously;
  3. They enter in some basic organization features, like:
    • Type of issue (safety, security, etc.)
    • Relevant department
    • And so on
  4. They can choose to fill out a basic form or a custom form, such as:
    • Fatigue form
    • Maintenance form
    • And so on
  5. They fill out the report
  6. (If applicable) Choose a location(s), people and/or vehicle involved
  7. (If applicable) Add any attachments like a picture
  8. Submit the form
  9. Have the ability to track progress on reported safety issues

As you can see, it’s very straightforward and easy. Doing all of this in a guide, the digital format makes this process much faster, easier, and helps avoid errors. The reason number nine is included above is because it encourages future hazard reporting and allows employees to "self-close" the feedback process. Allowing employees to follow up on their reported safety concerns improves safety culture.

There is nothing more frustrating than "not knowing" what actions management is doing to mitigate risk after you have taken the time to report the safety concern. If your SMS is not reciprocating to your hazard identifiers and hazard reporters, then your chances of benefiting from future proactive risk management processes diminish quickly.

Short story is: give prompt and regular feedback to employees submitting safety issues. Management's behaviors and follow-up actions during routine reactive risk management processes set the stage for more advanced risk management processes you are hoping to participate in the future, namely proactive and predictive risk management.

Related Articles on Aviation Risk Management

Importance of Hazard Reporting Forms

Hazard reporting forms are extremely important for the hazard reporting process. The important points are that you should have:

  • Multiple hazard reporting forms for relevant types of safety issues;
  • Hazard reporting forms that capture all important information;
  • Forms that guide employees with as little work as possible, such as by using multiple-choice, checkboxes, etc.;
  • An area to briefly describe “what happened”;
  • Nice looking, clean, uncluttered design; and
  • Mobile-friendly forms that respond to the reporter's device (smartphone, laptop, etc.).

Long story short, if your hazard reporting forms are cluttered, unclear, tedious, or poor-looking, then employees have every incentive NOT to report safety concerns.

Good hazard reporting forms give employees an incentive to report issues. The worst reporting forms I've ever seen come from civil aviation authorities. They are brutal to look at and my stomach turns when I consider filling out such lengthy forms. If you want an example of NOT what to do, look at your CAA's reporting forms. Do you think EASA's reporting form is the worst? Do you have an example of a very bad reporting form? Include a link to it in the comments.

Final Thought: How to Build Hazard Reporting Culture

Building a hazard reporting culture is the first, and easiest, step in developing an effective safety culture in aviation SMS. Some things you can do to develop a healthy, performing reporting culture are:

  • Audit your hazard reporting process and see how you can improve it;
  • Acquire better hazard reporting tools;
  • Conduct a safety survey and acquire feedback about the current hazard reporting process;
  • Talk to employees and get their opinion on the hazard reporting process;
  • Do daily briefing and/or weekly meetings to apprise employees of current safety concerns;
  • Have a chart for mandatory and voluntary types of safety concerns to report; and
  • Train employees on hazard identification.

To see what a top-quality, industry-designed, tested, and validated hazard reporting process is, check out these free demonstration videos:

Watch SMS Pro Demo Videos

Ready for a live demo to answer your questions?

Download SMS Implementation Checklist

Last updated September 2023.

Topics: Aviation SMS Database

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