Sunday, February 8, 2015

Has Aviation Become Safer In Two Years?

Two years ago an aviation-blog about Safety Management System (SMS) as a tool beyond the "Trial and Error Method" was published. Is aviation safer today than two years ago? There are still senior managers and regulators who believe that the only way to manage safety is to make new restrictive safety rules to prohibit, or requirement of certain actions. After each accident news media reports that this must be a "lesson learned" and demands changes to improve safety. Over the last couple of years there has been a demand for better tracking of airplanes in remote areas, and news stories states that "this must never happen again". The trial and error method is still continuing, but is slowly developing into SMS.

SMS developed from an unplanned aviation event which could have been managed.
How many lessons learned are expected before the world turns to SMS to be regulatory mandated in all countries? SMS regulations are performance based where operational control, and how-things-are-done in an organization determine their level of safety. Regulatory requirements is only the level where the bar is set for regulatory compliance. This can simply be explained as the "expectations" to meet the minimum regulatory requirement for a Safety Management System.

When applying each expectation as a goal for SMS operational control an enterprise is completing the first step to establish how regulatory goals are met. Everything else above regulatory requirements are processes for continuous improvements, and how to ensure safety for every flight, every year, month, day, hour, minute and second.

Has aviation become safer in these last two years because of SMS? Yes it has. Initiatives and mandates are proposed and implemented to apply Safety Management System as the preferred operational control tool and moving away from the trial and error method. 
However, it has been recognized that safety is a process and does not happen on its own merit, but require planning, implementation, checks and balances, and action for continuous safety improvements. This is only achieved with accountability in a just-culture.