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CAA: SMS Help, Making Sense of SMS Dialogue I

Making Sense of SMS – Dialogue I

We started our involvement and learning about 
Safety Management Systems (SMS) about five years 
ago.  Since that time we have learned a good deal 
about SMS, what it is and most importantly, how 
to implement SMS.  In order to start putting some 
information out to our friends in the industry we 
thought we would begin with a series of 
“Dialogues” where we introduce some ideas, concepts or thoughts about SMS.

When asked “what is SMS” we often feel the need 
to come up with a short one or two sentence 
definition and invariably fall back on one of the 
numerous definitions from the alphabetical 
organizations that sounds good but really does 
not tell the questioner much about SMS.

So, in this dialogue we are going to start the 
process of describing in “real” terms what a SMS 
is and does.  A SMS is a system to manage safety, 
just as the words imply.  It manages safety by 
“doing” safety in a very different manner than we 
do it today.  Today we tend to think of safety as 
something that is a specific activity that we 
“do” – we have safety campaigns, we have safety 
plans, policies, practices and 
provisions.  Safety is viewed as something 
outside our day-to-day work, something we do as a 
specific or special activity not something that 
is embedded into the way we do our work.  SMS 
integrates safety into everything we do and into 
every discussion that we have related to the work or business of the airport.

For example, when a new project or piece of 
equipment is being discussed one of the first 
things that always comes up is “how about the 
budget” -- do we have the money, or how will we 
pay for the new project / equipment.  When you 
have a fully implemented and mature SMS at your 
airport, safety will be addressed in the same way 
as financial considerations.  When a new project 
is proposed or a new piece of equipment is 
considered, safety concerns are discussed on the 
same level (or higher) as money issues.  Safety 
is not a secondary or tertiary discussion item – it becomes the focus.

Safety becomes elevated in the minds of every 
employee and safety discussions and 
considerations become part of the normal 
processes, not something that special.   Safety 
considerations become woven into the fabric of 
the airport, there becomes a safety culture at 
the airport.  In one of the future dialogues, we 
will discuss how this is done.  Safety promotion 
is one of the key elements of SMS.

What are the key elements of SMS?  Good place to 
begin.  The answer to that question depends upon 
which source you ask.  Ask the FAA and they will 
tell you there are four elements:

             1. Safety Policy and Objectives
             2. Safety Risk Management
             3. Safety Assurance
             4. Safety Promotion

If you ask someone from ICAO they will tell you 
that there are “Ten Steps to an SMS” – those steps are:

             1. Planning
             2. Senior Management’s Commitment to Safety
             3. Organization
             4. Hazard Identification
             5. Risk Management
             6. Investigation Capability
             7. Safety Analysis Capability
             8. Safety Promotion and Training
             9. Safety Management Documentation and Information Management
         10. Safety Oversight and Safety Performance Monitoring

So, who’s right?  They both are.  Below is how we see the two working together.

Safety Policy and Objectives
                         Senior Management’s Commitment to Safety
             Safety Risk Management
                         Hazard Identification
                         Risk Management
                         Investigation Capability
                         Safety Analysis Capability
          Safety Management Documentation and Information Management
                  Safety Assurance
                         Safety Oversight and Safety Performance Monitoring
             Safety Promotion
                         Safety Promotion and Training

The FAA, in the draft AC 150/XXXX-XX – October 
30, 2006, identifies its “Twenty Steps to an Effective SMS.”

The twenty elements, within the four areas of 
Acceptance, Organization, Training, and Program 
Requirements, listed below are recommended of all 
airport SMS programs regardless of system 
size.  Moreover, the elements of each area must 
be specifically tailored to the complexity and 
size of the airport.  The goal for airport 
operators is to tailor each area to meet the 
specific needs of the safety management system.

1. Acceptance of SMS as an effective business tool
2. Management buy-in and commitment to SMS development
3. Establishment and definition of authority and 
responsibilities for SMS functions within the organization
4. Determination and communication of safety 
objectives, targets, indicators and goals
5. Establishment of a ‘just’ (non-punitive) internal reporting system

6. Determination and assignment of the responsible/accountable executive
7. Establishment of an internal SMS organizational structure
8. Assignment (if warranted) of an organizational 
Safety Manager, responsible for administration of the safety program
9. Establishment of safety committee(s) and/or group(s) as warranted
10. Involvement of all employees in all aspects of SMS planning/implementation

11. Establishment of SMS training programs and 
identification of safety related competency requirements
12. Establishment of a process of hazard identification
13. Establishment of risk management processes
14. Documentation of all SMS requirements/functions
15. Establishment of a system to 
disseminate/communicate safety information to all 
employees on a routine and as-needed basis

16. Establishment of a system of accident / incident reporting
17. Conduct and document accident / incident investigations
18. Establishment of data collection programs to 
collect safety related information
19. Conduct of SMS / safety program audits and management reviews
20. Establishment of a program of safety related 
incentives and initiatives for employees (as warranted)

So, in order to further the discussion about SMS, 
what it is, what it does and how you do it we 
would like to use the FAA 20 Steps as the titles 
for future dialogues about SMS.  We hope that the 
dialogues will generate some discussion and questions about SMS.

Tim Phillips / Jessica Domitrovich

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