Thursday, November 2, 2017

SMS: An Umbrella Or A Wheel

There are many names associated with the Safety Management System (SMS). A Safety Management System is often addressed as an additional layer of safety, but does not address what other layers of undefined processes this is an addition to. This statement is widely accepted as fact without analyzing the other underlined processes.  Several of steady improvements in the accident rate during the lifespan of aviation was attributable to improvements to technology, such as the introduction of more reliable engines and navigation systems. Pilot error, or human factors, were assigned as the root cause of accidents each time there was an accident. This root-cause statement included a statement that a person had failed to comply with a regulation or standard which had been arbitrary implanted by the State. 
Umbrella is a shield of protection and not s system of safety.
More than once a new regulation or standard would be arbitrary implemented after a major accident. Assigning the blame to the flight crew was an easy way out and without accountability to the operational processes.  Continuous safety improvement in aviation had become difficult when applying an approach to assign root cause of an accident to one person only. The task of continuous safety improvement had now become a task to find a flight crew member who would never be involved in a future accident. Since this is an impossible task the Safety Management System was developed to make aviation a more perfect operation with an assigned safety operational confidence level.

This new approach to manage organizational factors, human factors, supervision factors and environmental factors was looked upon as an additional layer of safety to what the aviation industry already was doing. However, the aviation industry had not been doing anything else but to comply with regulatory and standards requirements. When the SMS program was presented as an additional layer of safety, everyone assumed that by complying with this highest level of layer of a hierarchy all other regulations and standards would take care of themselves. It had become an assumption that they were self-regulated by the Safety Management System. 

While the assumption of being self-regulated is a misconception of the SMS, both the operators SMS and the aviation authority oversight system is a part of a complete package. The concept of an SMS is that the operator has processes in place for the safe operations of an aircraft or airport and processes in place to ensure regulatory compliance. When there is an audit by the aviation authority the ideal outcome is that there are zero findings, or an operational zero tolerance to compromise aviation safety.

An SMS is a formal means for operators to demonstrate their management capability to meet their obligation to operate at the highest level of safety in the public interest. While both oversight systems and are highly complementary and interactive, they are both separate and essential components of the regulatory safety management strategy. In other words, SMS is a parallel system and supporting system to the operations.

SMS is to strengthen each spoke of the wheel.
SMS has been described as an umbrella in of the operational safety management system. An umbrella is a tool that covers or protects from above. When applied to the SMS system the umbrella is an overarching system encompassing all other systems within the organization. If this was the fact, that the SMS system is an umbrella, it would take precedence over all systems within an organization. This would cause mass-confusion and inability to manage operations. With the SMS established as an umbrella, anyone can use the safety-card to disable organizational safety management.

On the other side, when the SMS system is looked at as a parallel system to operations and as a tool of a wheel with spokes it becomes manageable and practical in the application of safety. As a parallel system and a wheel of with spokes, the operator may choose to strengthen the wheel by applying more powers to one or the other spokes. SMS is not an overarching operational umbrella system. SMS is a system that is receiving data from operational practices and applying this data to each one of the spokes in the wheel to strengthen the wheel and operational confidence level of safety management.