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Managing & Delivering Aviation Safety

By Rudy Pont, BeCA Air Safety Committee

SMS, FRM, JSC… If you don’t fully understand these concepts, just keep reading: this article was written for you!

These concepts have now become a must for every aviation safety professional. Their aim is to improve the way, aviation actors, altogether, manage and deliver safety. But how can we deliver if we do not understand these concepts and the implications on our airlines and our profession? In this article, we will do our best to help clarify those terms and make you understand why they are so vital in the modern aviation system.

1) The basics

How do these concepts interlink with each other?

A Safety Management System (SMS) is a systematic and structured approach to controlling safety risks within an airline and the aviation industry. It aims at identifying potential hazards (weather, terrain, lack of training, fatigue, inadequate regulation, etc.) in order to find appropriate mitigation measures. It is therefore a proactive and predictive approach.

A Fatigue Risk Management (FRM) is one of the components of a fully implemented SMS. It aims at identifying and mitigating the risks linked to fatigue, which is therefore considered as any other potential hazards.

In order to implement a truly effective and efficient SMS, it is of paramount importance that operators create a trustful environment for their personnel. Such an environment will encourage the staff to report their mistakes (‘occurrence reporting’) without the fear of being blamed for this. This is what we call a Just Safety Culture. A Just Safety Culture is therefore the fundamental basis of any SMS and FRMS.

2) SMS in practice

You probably think: theory is nice, but in practice, how does it work?

As of 28 October 2014, according to European regulation 965/2012, all operators must have implemented an SMS. As a consequence, all of us, pilots, must (should) have received an initial SMS training.

To implement an SMS, operators must first set the “rules of the game” in a Safety Management Manual (SMM), where the management explains its Safety Policies & Objectives. This is called the first ‘pillar’ of SMS.

The second pillar is the Risk Assessment and Safety Management of the operations. This is the day-to-day work, which can be divided in five steps:

SMS Steps

Once risks have been assessed and mitigation measures implemented, what else can we do?

Safety Assurance is the third pillar. It is basically a process through which we always make sure that the risk control strategies that have been identified are up-to-date, implemented and, above all, effective.

Finally, through the fourth pillar (Safety promotion), we ensure that everybody in the company is aware of these concepts, understands them and is trained. This contributes to the establishment of an overall safety culture throughout all levels of the company.

3) JSC - An ideal world…

Just Safety Culture... What a beautiful concept! It evokes something that is fair; something that is related to safety; and something that everybody in a community shares, believes in and defends. What a nice and ideal world, don’t you think? But, is it our airline’s world and the EASA world?

In theory, it is. A JSC is the basis on which any effective SMS is built. Without trust, without fairness, without common beliefs, the SMS will only be a piece of paper. Therefore, as of 28 October, it seems logical that a fair and trust environment is in place in every European airline.

Do you have a Just Safety Culture in your company? To be able to answer this question, we will try to give you a brief overview of the main principles of a JSC:

  • Everybody must accept that human errors are unavoidable.
  • We must learn from these errors to improve safety, not to attribute blame.
  • Occurrence reporting is a cornerstone in the creation of a JSC. A JSC provides employees with sufficient confidence and trust so they are willing to report their errors, without fear of being blamed. How will pilots report if they are not 100% that they will not be sanctioned? Of course, this excludes gross negligence and deliberate or willful acts.
  • A JSC is promoted and enforced by the management, in a partnership approach with the crews.

So, within your airline, does the crew evolve in such an environment? As safety professionals, we must strive for proper implementation of a JSC and SMS within our own airline and contribute to it by reporting any kind of incidents. As your representative, BeCA will provide support to its members, airlines and authorities, in order to ensure a proper implementation of JSC and SMS in every Belgian airline. We will support our members in case of incidents, we will develop communications material on new legislations, we will draft a Just Safety Culture charter and example of Flight Data Monitoring agreement, etc. But for this, we need YOU, our members. We need you to let us know any problem or abuse, so we will be able, altogether, to make these nice concepts become a reality.

Tags: Just Culture, SMS, All Airlines, Cockpit Flash

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