March 16, 2015


For some years now airlines have been implementing to one degree or another Safety Management Systems (SMS). Integral to the effectiveness of this process is the need to develop organisational reporting systems which are based on the Proactive model of encouraging all staff to report and hazards in the work place.

We encourage the creation of data bases, the analysis and development of appropriate mitigations to deal with the issues which are identified. We also learn from our own experience and to a lesser extent the experience of others.

The whole process of Identification followed by Investigation and analysis to fully understand the “actual” Risk and Exposure are in general non-complex processes delivered in a “subjective” manner by nominated members of the SMS office.
By its nature this process does not have direct authority to act rather it is obligated to present in an effective way the full understanding of the relevant exposure to nominated person or business process owner so that a resolution may be acted upon.
Because of the subjectivity of Risk Analysis element it is essential that the competence of the staff who perform this function have a wide experience of the subject together with a major exposure to the SMS methodology.

For example Flight Operations, Ground Operations or Maintenance Staff, not to put a number on it but typically in excess of 5 to 10 years relevant experience would be considered to be “normal” Ultimately the most important element rests with knowledge and ability.
Safety risk investigators should have the freedom and ability to source information from which ever area of the company and in relation to any element of the perceived risk and they must be supported by the senior management in this role.

One of the challenge we face relates to the quantity of information available on which to make an analysis – the potential size or gravity of the issue and the time which may be invested to understand the full dimension of the issue.
On occasion investigations may consume many 10’s or even 100’s of man hours and bring with them both a burden and a cost. It should also be understood that investigation are not sequential many are taking place concurrently!
One of the evidences of a successful system is the ability of the organisation to communicate our safety exposures as well as providing ongoing status information in a form which can be easily digested throughout the business.

We expect to see the exposures communicated in an effective way throughout the business including at the level of senior management. (In fact how the senior management team react to this element is pivotal in relation to one of the measures regarding the effectiveness of the SMS)

The three key elements of the process – Identifying Hazards, Assessing Risks & Determining Appropriate Mitigation each carry unique challenges and each depend on a full understanding of the needs for process, procedure, competence, effective organisation culture as well as background knowledge and experience.

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Exposure, Identifying Hazards, Investigation, Risk, SMS