Taking the Guesswork out of Ground Safety

James K. Coyne, President of the National Air Transportation Association, outlines the benefits of incorporating the Safety Management System into an organization.


All too often, the safety function of an organization is relegated to individuals that, through no fault of their own, do not possess both the theoretical and practical technical knowledge required to properly perform their duties. And all too often, the organizations that establish these positions do not thoroughly understand exactly what duties and responsibilities are required to support safety; in the end, resulting in an ineffective safety function with little impact on the actual performance of the operation.

Since 2003, several aviation organizations have looked to find ways to eliminate ground damage. Estimated at over 5 billion dollars annually, NATA, recognizing the positive impact the Safety First training program has had on the industry, has taken the bold step to aggressively attack ground damage by introducing what is viewed amongst safety professionals as the cornerstone of any effective safety program — that is the safety management system.

What is SMS?

A fundamental tenet of the Safety Management System is based on the fact that there will always be hazards and risks, so proactive management is needed to identify and control these threats to safety before they lead to accidents. Once this is understood and the elements of the SMS are integrated into your organization, then, and only then, do we separate the truly superior operations from those that have experienced luck.

In its purest form, the Safety Management System is a systematic, comprehensive process for the management of safety risks that integrates operations and technical systems with financial and human resource management, for all activities related to Fixed Base Operator (FBO) or Charter operations. The SMS is a data driven, business-like approach to safety management. In common with all other management systems, the SMS provides for goal setting, planning and performance measurement. It concerns itself with organizational safety rather than strictly conventional health and safety at work concerns only. The SMS defines how it intends the management of ground safety to be conducted as an integral part of a company’s business management activities.

The two other critical elements for an effective safety program are Standards and Training. Standards refer to the documented policies and procedures that define how an organization, and in the best sense, an industry, will conduct operations. The Training component speaks to how an organization trains its personnel to the known standard so that the training matches the actual performance on the line. For the training component, NATA’s Safety 1st Professional Line Service Training (PLST) program effectively satisfies this requirement.

Integration is Key

Every employee in every department contributes to the safety health of the organization. In some departments safety management activity will be more visible than in others, but the system must be integrated into “the way things are done” throughout the establishment. This will be achieved by the implementation and continuing support of a safety program based on a coherent policy, that leads to well designed procedures.

NATA’s Safety 1st — Safety Management System program has been designed to take the guesswork out of implementing an effective safety program while enabling the integration of NATA’s proven Safety 1st training program. We’ve created the industry’s best management tool for enhancing safety. It takes the guesswork out of operating safely and goes well beyond preventing accidents — by helping establish a strong safety culture at your company. If your company operates, handles or services aircraft, the SMS will absolutely improve your bottom line performance.

Now, Let’s Prove It To You

Of course, by eliminating accidents, incidents and injuries, you’ll be able to re-direct those dollars back to your bottom line. Moreover, you’ll enhance your reputation as customers see a more professional operation. And fewer accidents mean fewer customer complaints, higher employee morale, less time lost to staff injuries and lower insurance premiums.

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