Safety management – as you are or a catalyst for change?
We at Baines Simmons strive to help organisations embed effective safety management principles into organisations as part of their business strategy. Our vast global experience allows us to analyse common themes seen during SMS implementation and helps shape our practical, but performance based, approach.
We believe that keeping things as simple as possible is a key success factor in making SMS add value and deliver against the intent of ICAO’s guidance. Simplicity in SMS can only be achieved if the fundamental elements are fully understood and are held up as a common aim for all industry stakeholders to align to. We are happy to share some of what we consider to be those fundamentals with you here.
“Safety is a condition”
Safety itself does not exist; it is a condition that is created, by conducting activities, where the chance of safety harm is reduced to and maintained at an acceptable level. Simply put, how well we do this will determine how ‘safe’ we actually are.
“So what is the link to risk?”
The more effective the above activities, the less likely the chance of harm; i.e. risk is reduced. In order to determine if risk is really under control, we must execute our responsibilities for these activities systemically, consistently and competently making use of reliable, proactive operational information.
“What is meant by acceptable?”
A sensible yard stick is the concept of reasonably practicable often known as ALARP or SFAIRP. Recognising that, in order to operate, risk cannot be reduced to zero this concept focusses on the measures taken to reduce risk and less so on the calculation of risk, which is often time consuming and can create a false sense of security. Most day-to-day risk reduction efforts can be satisfied by the effective application of the intended meaning of aviation regulations, standards and good practice and offers a sound argument to that of being ‘acceptable’.
“OK, but we have a health and safety system already!”
For clarity, the ICAO Annex 19 Safety Management requirements are concentrated on issues (things that contribute to aircraft accidents) that affect aviation safety. Aviation service provider’s safety objectives should be concentrated on issues that impact (or can contribute to) aviation safety. The principles of Health and Safety are synonymous with aviation safety but aim to improve different (non-aviation) safety outcomes.
“…and what about my approval/certification?”
Complying with the intent of aviation regulations must be an integral part of any aviation safety management implementation or improvement strategy. They represent the baseline of hard-won safety improvements whilst setting out considered and reliable risk control measures. Do this well, and much of your safety risk management efforts will be addressed. Identifying areas where you are importing risk to your operations that are not in your direct control or where the level of performance in meeting the intent of compliance with regulations is not mature and making decisions on how to establish or return risk to an acceptable level are all part of safety management efforts.
The reality of actually ‘doing safety’ extends beyond the risk assessment matrices and registers. It is played out in the decision-making and behaviours of people throughout the operation on an hour-by-hour basis. Collectively, those tools, decisions and behaviours help us satisfy the objectives of SMS which itself must be predicated upon a common collective goal – that of risk reduction to an acceptable level.