What's in Your Toolbox?

According to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a safety management system (SMS) is: “… a toolbox that contains the tools that an aviation organization needs in order to be able to control the safety risks of the consequences of the...


According to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a safety management system (SMS) is: “… a toolbox that contains the tools that an aviation organization needs in order to be able to control the safety risks of the consequences of the hazards it must face during the delivery of the services for which the organization is in business.” (ICAO, 2009 p.7-1)

ICAO goes on further to state that, “It is important to acknowledge that an SMS itself is neither a tool nor a process.” (ICAO, 2009 p.7-1) Having determined that you are part of the aviation organization — are you part of the toolbox? The simple answer is — yes!

Imminent FAA mandate for SMS — “We can’t afford it right now!”

The FAA regulations on the requirements for aviation SMS are not yet set, but they are fast approaching with the March 2011 extended deadline for comments on the related NPRM. Are you and your organization going to be ready for it? The first step is to understand what it is and what it is not.

First and foremost, a SMS is a companywide enterprise that includes all departments working together to achieve the same safety and quality goals and objectives. The approach may be different between departments as to how this is done, but the aim is to achieve the same goals of safer and more profitable operations throughout the organization.

As is standard for the FAA, it has provided the areas that must be encompassed by a SMS, but it does not prescribe how to implement it in your own organization. Of course, the implementation is the most difficult part. Without the FAA mandate in place for this implementation, current traction and momentum of several SMS in the aviation industry have either faltered or been put on the back burner. Industry downturn has impacted the SMS implementation in all aviation spheres. This is especially true for many fledgling SMS that were being planned in the maintenance field. Nevertheless, this is a very shortsighted perspective on the return on investment that a SMS can provide for the company as a whole.

Some in the aviation industry believe they cannot afford to implement a SMS at this time. However, if questioned more closely, there is no “good” time to do it. Many smaller operators, such as in general aviation, repair stations, and corporate aviation operators, can barely see their way clear to making a profit, so a new regulatory decree right now is not being readily accepted. Some larger operators are dragging their feet as well. How can placing another obviously onerous requirement on the industry at this time possibly be advantageous to business? Here’s how.

Benefits of a SMS

If the SMS is implemented correctly, with the right level of commitment from all personnel, along with the framework and policies to support it, we in the industry will benefit personally from it as well as our passengers, clients, and consequently our companies. Doesn’t that make business sense? There are other benefits that can also be realized that enhance profitability.

The decrease in insurance claims from less accidents and injuries leads to decreased premiums. The implementation of an effective SMS is a good marketing tool for retaining as well as gaining new clients. This more congruent work environment can also bring into the organization greater human talent as well as retain those already in place. It provides a better work environment due to increased communication between departments, better understanding of each other department’s expectations, and a generally more transparent organization. This can have many other financial benefits such as:

• increased employee morale

• greater job satisfaction

• better retention rates

• retaining greater corporate knowledge

• improved labor relations

• greater organizational ability to adapt to changing markets (due to more people communicating and knowing what is going on)

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