Safety Management System (SMS)

Airports · 4 min read · Nov 24, 2021
Safety Management System

When you read the title Safety Management System, you can already imagine that we’ll talk about how some organizations approach safety management across the aviation industry. Managing safety is of uppermost importance for the aviation industry, and this goes beyond making sure the passengers are safe during a flight.

So, let us dig deeper into the details of safety management systems as you keep reading below.

What is meant by a Safety Management System?

As we said before, safety management goes beyond the passengers in a plane. This applies to many industries, not only the aviation industry. Therefore, a Safety Management System (SMS) is a program that promotes safety and reduced risk at work.

It is implemented in every department to identify, evaluate, and control hazardous conditions for all the workers and the public. Effective safety management systems prevent injuries and process failures while enhancing the long-term productivity of organizations implementing them.

What is the mission of the Safety Management System (SMS)?

The mission of the Safety Management System is to provide a structured management approach to control safety risks during operation. To do so, an effective SMS needs to address the individual organization’s structures and processes regarding protecting the people involved in the operation.

In other words, the final goal of a safety management system (SMS) is to help an organization improve its safety performance by having a clear and systematic approach to reduce safety risk by performing risk assessment, avoiding system failures, and implementing risk controls.

Are safety management systems really important in aviation?

The safety management system (SMS) is already standard in aviation. It is recognized by the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA), and product/service providers.

SMS emphasized safety management as a fundamental business process to be considered similar to other aspects of business management. Similar management systems are used in many key management areas such as quality, occupational safety, health, security, environment, etc., within the industry. By recognizing the organization’s role in the accident, prevention SMS provides services either to license holders or FAA as appropriate.

Therefore, it is easy to think that no organization can do without a safety management system in the aviation industry. Hence its importance.

An airport worker wearing protective head gear and a reflective yellow vest, as it is required by safety management systems.

How is SMS implemented?

SMS can be interpreted and used for the controlling or monitoring of any safety risk. SMS implementation starts with establishing an organizational safety rule. This initial step lists the strategy to achieve acceptable levels of safety within the organization. Safety planning and implementation of safety management methods are the subsequent steps in the processes intended to mitigate and contain risk in operation.

The application of SMS gives management an integrated set of tools to meet their regulatory responsibilities for the organization’s safety. This occurs through the application of safety assurance and evaluation processes, which ensure permanent monitoring of activities and identify areas for continuous improvement.

What are the 4 components of safety management systems (SMS)?

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has provided the framework to consider the international standards and regulations for SMS in aviation operations. The framework is based on four main components and twelve elements in total. If you have asked the question “what should a safety management system include?”, then here’s the answer for you:

First component: Safety policy and objectives

  • Management commitment and responsibility
  • Safety accountabilities
  • Appointment of key safety personnel
  • Coordination of emergency response planning (accident and incident investigation)
  • SMS documentation

Second component: Safety risk management

  • Hazard identification
  • Safety risk assessment and mitigation

Third component: Safety assurance

Fourth component: Safety promotion

  • Training and education
  • Safety communication

What is an example of a safety management system?

You will see different industries manage safety differently. Some have service providers, and others implement risk controls themselves, but the truth is that very sophisticated resources are not always required to implement SMS. So, let’s see simple examples to illustrate the previous statement.

One example could be a manufacturing organization with decades of experience where most employees have been working since the company started operations. Here, the SMS can be based on the knowledge and awareness of the employees and their managers regarding the several risks involved in their operations. The company can have an EHS department tracking compliance and training needs for a long time. They can have all the data in spreadsheets, perform research and audits, and report findings to carry out the corresponding corrections.

Another example could be one in aviation. Due to the complexity of organizational structures and the operations in this industry, SMS tends to be more complex. However, service providers give more accessible access to the resources and data required for SMS implementation.

For example, the service provider could offer the training needed to develop a corporate culture of safety within the company and learn the best practices to establish a secure working environment.

Moreover, the company can provide a wide variety of resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and the general procedures to follow by each department. This could be reflective vests and ear protection for the ground crew or the standard procedures we always see (and many times mistakenly ignore) which are provided by the cabin crew before a flight.

These are just simple examples of a somehow more complex system, but you get the point.

Construction worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) following all safety policies.

Managing safety with SMS

For any company, whether in aviation or any other industry, managing safety and SMS implementation must be a critical part of their business objectives. In the end, a more secure working environment promotes higher quality, and you will also be able to comply with the corresponding regulations.

Fortunately, implementing an SMS only requires data and knowledge which can be obtained from research and training. So, you already know what you have to do if you want to implement SMS to have your workers and your passengers secure while complying with regulations at the same time.

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Aeroclass Team
A team of professionals with a deep passion for the aviation industry bringing you the newest and the most striking industry-related news and content.

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