Tame the SMS Beast

SMS is not a monster managers must fear. Whittle away at this seemingly monumental job one task at a time

If an organization simply copies someone else’s manuals and fails to conduct SMS training the cost of SMS appears minimal. But in actuality the costs may be very high. An SMS is put into place, but only in a digital file or in a hard copy manual gathering dust on a shelf, in addition to possibly not being applicable to the organization as it was someone else’s creation for that organization. In this scenario, no one participates, and there is no feedback from management to employees or from employees to management. It misses the fact that the idea behind SMS is to become proactive in reducing the costs of accidents, incidents and injuries. With this approach, it becomes true that the SMS really did not improve anything; it just added another layer of obligation.

But when the SMS is created as it should be, through unilateral brainstorming, input and feedback from all departments in the organization, the SMS will more than pay for itself by actually reducing and eliminating accidents, incidents and injuries that may have occurred without the SMS in place. It’s hard to put a price on accidents that didn’t happen; so here is the real question: How much are you willing to allot in your budget for an accident or injury? Where exactly is the line item cost in your budget for one of your employees losing their eyesight or a limb, or possibly their life in an accident? Until you realize the risk and the cost associated with that risk, you cannot “realize” the price of SMS.

Add Administrative Policy

Another reason for what would seem to be a well-organized and effective SMS to fail is not having an administrative policy in place that defines clear expectations and goals. This combined with monitoring, measurement and continuous improvement is how the organization can determine if the SMS is successful.

Sometimes companies will say, “If we do an SMS we are going to get all these bad reports.” Yes! Isn’t it better to identify and know about near misses before they become actual accidents? This is evidence that the SMS procedures are working!

An organization that is inundated with hazard reports certainly should be drilling down to the root causes of the issues. When employees have had the chance to say: “Wow, that was close,” the organization is ripe for an accident. The reporting of near misses within the SMS framework should be viewed as opportunities to mitigate or eliminate the risks associated with the near misses, resulting in an enhanced safety culture and environment and improved profitability.


About the Author

DeborahAnn Cavalcante, head, Diversified Aviation Consulting

DeborahAnn Cavalcante leads Diversified Aviation Consulting (DAC) and along with her associates has firsthand experience in air carrier operations, private charter aircraft, general aviation operations, military/civilian interface, FBO management, maintenance repair station training, safety training, human factors training, and customer service training. For more information on DAC visit www.dac.aero.

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