Aviation SMS Challenges Related to Effective Risk Assessment within an Organization

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Sofema Online (SOL) www.sofemaonline.com considers the various challenges faced by the organization related to the effectiveness of the risk assessment process.


Driven by ICAO, SMS provides an approach that encourages proactive behaviour to support the development of barriers to inhibit potential exposures.

When correctly managed SMS, should create safety awareness among all stakeholders within the aviation system, which should translate into improved safety and efficiency.

Without a doubt, an Effective Aviation Safety Management System (SMS) provides the industry with a key driver to manage the various elements, which together can support the lowering of exposure and lead to a reduction of incidents and accidents.

The crux of implementing an effective safety management system (SMS) is not just in defining it, but effectively implementing it throughout the business with everyone acting as a stakeholder and engaging with the organization’s processes.

Note - A positive safety culture encourages open and honest communication and relies on trust between employees and management.

Hi-Level Examples / Reasons Related to SMS Underperformance:

» The SMS required element or activity is poorly documented or inadequate for the purpose.
» The SMS required element or activities are not sufficiently known.
» Lack of availability of information and sufficient feedback required to perform the task or activities related to the SMS element.
» Communication process delay related to information and required feedback
» Corrupted or poor-quality Information and or feedback related to the requirement to accomplish the task or SMS element.
» Liability in Law related to the “knowns” within the SMS acceptance of the term as low as Reasonable Practical “ALARP”;
» The Skill Set of the Safety Manager is critical – note that an effective SM is not a figurehead – very Senior Captains can look really good but do they have the time to “Walk the Walk” the job of SM requires the ability to be able to manage SMS Data Champion Safety Studies throughout the business. Lead the process for hazard analysis and mitigation proposal;
» Driving the process for data collection throughout the business – it is essential not just that we gather data which is known but that we encourage the reporting of Data which is in provided on a voluntary basis;
» Developing a working Hazard Identification – Risk Assessment – Mitigation Recommendation – Performance Assessment follow-up process;
» Developing best practice SMS Culture behaviour educating regarding safety compliance and potential exposure;
» Developing an “in company” database which contains information regarding exposure and recommended mitigations – the Risk Register should be included in this process;
» Managing the SMS implementation programme in the strongest and most effective way. Ensure a Just Culture is established and understood with a non-punitive and fully transparent hazard reporting & occurrence organisational system;
» Safety awareness program must be implemented with a specific focus on SMS and its components, training to be available to all persons related to role and responsibilities.
» Training to be managed at an individual level and made recurrent.

Accountable Manager – Baseline Awareness

The Accountable Manager (AM) of the organization is ultimately responsible and accountable for Safety. The AM Must:

» Understand the risk of not having an effective SMS in place for his organization.
» Understand that SMS is a “top-down” process which needs to be led by the executive & leadership team.

Safety Culture Considerations

» A positive safety culture is typically considered as the shared attitudes, values, and beliefs of the people within your business (related to safety objectives).
» A culture where you promote safety and involve everyone in your business is an essential part of an effective Safety Management System (SMS).
» Developing a positive safety culture will help ensure the people in your business can make a difference and positively impact the level of safety.

You can positively impact your organisation's safety culture by sharing a consistent safety message as well as top-down leadership related to the safety commitment and organisation-wide teaching of safety values.

Safety culture benefits when:

» Consistently share safe work practices
» Demonstrate a low tolerance related to the acceptance of risk
» Strive to mitigate associated risks to as low as is reasonably practicable
» Proactively investigate and address all reports, including near misses as well as incidents with the goal of improving the overall safety performance

Different causes for Risk Management Failures

» Failure to use appropriate risk metrics - Safety Risk managers sometimes make mistakes in assessing the probability or the size of the exposure (potential loss). Mismeasurement of known risk is a common problem in risk management practice.
» Failure to take known risks into account. It is both time-consuming and even difficult to consider all the risks in a risk measurement system, or it is costly to do so.
» Failure in communicating risks to top management – The Safety Risk Managers should communicate information about the risk exposures to the leadership team, however, if this information is poorly communicated the leadership team may make decisions that are badly informed.
» Failure to monitor and manage risks - Safety risk managers may fail to adequately monitor or mitigate risks simply because the risk was misunderstood in some way.

Next Steps

Sofema Aviation Services (SAS) Provides Safety Management System Consultancy, Classroom, Webinar and Online Training including a 3-Day SMS Safety Risk Management course.

For additional details, please visit our websites www.sassofia.com and www.sofemaonline.com or email team@sassofia.com

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