How Effective has been the Implementation of Aviation Safety Management in the Operations Environment with an EASA Environment

Sofema Aviation Services takes a look at How SMS is developing.


Safety Management System (SMS) has been officially around now for over 5 years – Is it doing what we (Industry) Want it to do?

Well, that depends do you agree with the purpose of SMS? (Compliance or Risk?)

Some senior people see SMS as a Compliance objective means to achieve a pass during a regulatory audit is the objective.

So to say it is all about Compliance? – But It’s not! – It’s about Managing Risk.

What Does SMS Deliver?

Safety Auditing goes far beyond traditional compliance led approaches to auditing.

So it is incumbent on a Safety Management System to identify all Hazards within the workplace and to analyse and determine the potential safety risks.

Note that whilst Hazards are found throughout the aviation system, not all hazards are considered dangerous (If managed in an appropriate way there is very minimal exposure.

What’s in an Aviation Safety Management System (SMS)

At the heart of any effective Safety Management System is a formal Risk Management process that identifies hazards and assesses and mitigates risk.

The next step is to mitigate or manage any risks identified to an acceptable or tolerable level. An essential aspect being the management of risk generated by Contract or Sub Contracted organization particularly where this may directly impact the organization.

Is a Safety Management System (SMS) an Extension of a Quality Assurance System (QAS)

To consider an SMS as an extension of the Quality System? – Is incorrect!

Safety Auditing Is very different from Quality Auditing, in fact, Safety Auditing is somewhat subjective, you could even say it is almost holistic in that it is an analysis of exposures which are faced by the Organisational system.

To believe that the SMS is owned by the Safety Manager is Incorrect!

The SMS System is owned by the Accountable Manager but each Post Holder is responsible for the effective delivery of the SMS within their own business areas.

This includes for example training as well as local Risk Assessment and the acceptance of appropriate mitigations. – Sometimes called a Top-Down Approach.

How long to implement an SMS within your Organisation

An SMS is going to take more than a year and near 18 months to 2 years to bed in your SMS system.

SMS Realities

One size definitely does not fit all, it should be scalable and appropriate for the organization.

SMS is a proactive and integrated approach to Safety. It should be integrated into the management system of the organization.

To be effective it has to describe and to educate the entire workforce as to the structure, and scope of the organization, available resources, staff accountabilities, authorities and responsibilities.

A real challenge facing any organization is how to set and monitor the Safety performance of the organization. Essentially this is a process which is data-driven so one measure of the effectiveness of the SMS is how it gathers data.

This is especially true in the operations environment.

What are the Key Elements of an effective aviation SMS

The SMS should comprise of the following four key components:

(a) Safety Policy and Objectives;

(b) Safety Risk Management;

(c) Safety Assurance;

(d) Safety Promotion.

Each of the above elements is critically important and all must be visible and active within the SMS System.

Who are the Key Personnel in an effective Aviation SMS

Whist the individual business owners are responsible for safety management an SMS champion is essential for the health of the SMS system. (This person may be the Safety Manager or he may be the Quality manager or another person, the important point is to ensure effective management of the entire process).

Sofema Aviation Services offer several SMS training and implementation workshops, please see or email for details.

Further Guidance

Sofema Aviation Services (SAS) and SofemaOnline (SOL) are pleased to offer a range of EASA compliant regulatory training courses in support of Multiple Regulatory Compliance and Competence Development. For details please see, or email: or