Saturday, December 7, 2013

SMS – A Tool Beyond The Trial And Error Method

Safety Management System (SMS) is the new way of manage safety and  improve safety in aviation. After major accidents, great safety improvements were implemented.  Some of these accidents which created improvement to safety were the Tenerife Airport disaster including two Boeing 747, Linate Airport crash between a MD-87 and Cessna Citation, Los Angeles Airport when a Booing 737 overran a Metroliner and a mid-air collision with Aeromexico and a PA-28. From these and other disasters came great safety improvements as crew resource management, ground radar, standardized phraseology and introduction of runway status lights.  

Aviation safety has now risen above and beyond these 100 year of aviation trial and error method, to a system where there is zero tolerance to compromise aviation safety. We do no longer accept accidents as a tool to improve safety.

Accidents happens in the way we do things. Nobody comes to work one morning planning to have an accident. They come to work to do their job the way they are trained and the way they are expected to by their supervisors and the organization they work for.

A safe flight begins and ends at an airport. The airport operator has to manage time and place to avoid runway incursions, the airline has to manage crew and equipment to support operations and the pilots have to manage information and technical operations to ensure safe flight.

SMS starts at the top level in the organization, with the accountable executive (AE). An AE is the CEO, President or Owner of the organization, or someone else who has final control of financial and human resources. The AE must make a firm commitment to safety and approve the safety policy. Accountability is to operate with zero tolerance to compromise aviation safety. This must be clearly identified in the safety policy, and clearly supported by the AE. Accountability must trickle down the organization to accountable management and accountable employees. To allow for organizational accountability, the organization must operate in a just culture and integrate a clear commitment to a non-punitive policy in SMS.

SMS are mountains identified  hazards for approach.
Simplified, SMS is to identify, document, analyze, decide action, implement and review of hazards, incidents and accidents. A hazard is an item or process which could lead to an incident or accident. An incident is the happening of an un-planned event, or developed hazard,  which caused interruption of time. An accident is an incident which caused loss of property, human life or hospitalization of personnel.  
 
All processes in SMS are dependant on interpretation and action by people. Without people involved a process becomes void and can not function on its own. People applies their understanding of the process based on knowledge level, training, emotional factors and environmental factors. Therefore, the organization must tailor processes to personnel who are intended to carry out the process. It is not possible for SMS to perform effectively if processes becomes mass-mail and one-fits-all.

There are several methods available to evaluate the effectiveness of SMS, from Statistical Process Control (SPC), surveys, observations and communication. If there is one question to ask the AE to find out how solid and effective SMS is in that organization, it would be “How many hazard reports have you submitted this month”?

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