4 Things Safety Managers Do to Perform Well on Aviation Safety Audits

Aviation Safety Audits: Here to Stay

Aviation SMS Audits Safety Managers Perform Well

Another aviation safety audit for your SMS program…

The safety auditors are coming with established guidelines from:

At this point, many aviation safety managers’ collars start to feel a little tight around the neck. The first thing is: relax.There will be many more audits to come, and if you don’t perform well, you will at least receive valuable feedback.

Beyond that, in our experience, safety managers who routinely perform extremely well on safety audits spend much time preparing for audits in very specific ways.

The two general themes in preparation are:

  • Making aspects of the program as current as possible; and
  • Having document reports ready and presentable.

Some of the below points will necessarily require some preparation well ahead of time, but many are things that safety managers can do with little-advanced notice and some hard work.

1- Review and Update Documentation

In an ideal world, you have been meticulously documenting all aspects of your safety program from the beginning. Of course, one of the great thing about audits is that they give aviation SMS programs impetus to do some “house cleaning” and make sure documentation is fully up to date with current practices. Safety managers who routinely perform well on audits make sure to take the time to thoroughly organize documentation into one convenient location and make sure it is fully up to date with current practices.

Considering that aviation SMS is a bureaucratic process of risk management, documentation is of critical importance. It’s also no surprise one of the most common findings during aviation safety audits is that documentation and actual risk management processes are not in sync. Before audits, successful safety managers ensure that documentation and reality reflect each other as closely as possible.

In particular, such safety managers pay careful attention:

  • To review the SMS program’s civil aviation authority’s current requirements for various duties and responsibilities of SMS programs;
  • That aviation safety policies maintain up to date SMS compliance with the program’s civil aviation authority’s requirements;
  • To ensure that procedures are backed up by documented evidence that they reflect actual, real-life practices; and
  • To make sure that they have up to date documentation of SMS training that complies with the civil aviation authority.

Having a well-organized system of documentation ahead of time greatly expedites this process. For organizations whose documentation is disorganized, performing reviews and updates can greatly hinder their ability to score well on safety audits.

2 – Prepare Documentation in a Presentable Report(s)

In addition to making sure all documentation is updated and organized, safety managers who perform well on safety audits make sure to follow up by having their documentation in presentable form, such as a report. Should auditors ask for something they do not have, such safety managers are open and frank about what they have or don’t have – they don’t make excuses – as SMS audits have become regular affairs.

A best-in-class aviation safety manager will be able to have many of the following at his/her fingertips for quick, easy, presentable access:

The reason successful safety managers go through such pains to prepare this information is that it is impressive to auditors, and it makes their jobs much easier. Moreover, having reports ready and organized is also an indication of how such managers to operate in their safety program, that they “have it together”, and that their SMS program is best-in-class.

3 – Update Hazard Register and Issue Management

Professionally designed, aviation-hazard-tracking SMS databases are robust, organized systems that can handle a vast amount of data. Hazard registers can make or break an aviation SMS program – they are only as useful as the tools that safety managers design around them.

Safety managers who perform well on audits make regular use of such databases to document and visualize reports for:

In addition to making risk management that much more efficient, developing such sophisticated tools around a hazard register is a further demonstration and tangible evidence that gives auditors the impression that the manager’s risk management methods are robust and predictive. And let’s make no mistake, an auditors’ impression of your SMS program is very important.

Moreover, any late or overdue items, such as overdue CPAs or issues, will not reflect well on the program. Safety managers who perform well on audits always make sure hazard safety items are current.

4 – Train Employees Based on Their Duties & Responsibilities

Safety managers who perform well on audits take time to understand current SMS requirements from both ICAO and their respective civil aviation authority in regards safety duties and responsibilities. Ideally, initial SMS training would be designed around these standards in clear, documentable ways.

Regardless, before important safety audits safety managers will make sure to re-apprise employees of their specific duties and responsibilities as covered in their role in the organization’s policies and procedures, and inform them of the upcoming audit.

Of course, sometimes the standards and SMS guidance from civil aviation authorities are abysmal or non-existent. In these cases, you might look at:

Chances are that the auditor may talk with employees, and if they don’t know how to inform the auditor of their specific role in the SMS program, it will not reflect well on the program. Safety managers who perform well on audits know this and make sure employees are ready.

Final Thought: Useful Things to Point Out

There are a couple of things that greatly aid all safety managers in audits:

  • Following an audit checklist will be extremely helpful – see below for free audit checklist downloads;
  • After auditors have made findings don’t waste any time – put the findings through your risk management process straight away;
  • Remember that different auditors will deliver different results, as SMS auditors will each have their own particular “pet peeves.”


How Does Aviation Safety Software Improve Safety? – Aviation SMS

Aviation Safety Software Prioritizes Safety

How Does Aviation Risk Management Software Improve Safety?

Most of us have experienced the following: sitting on the runway for over an hour wondering why the plane isn’t moving. The pilot has already apologized and given the “reason” for the delay: the daunting and nebulous “technical difficulties.”

For passengers, this type of situation is frustrating at best, and at worst unnerving, even scary.

Yet even when sitting on the tarmac, frustrated and confused, passengers should take comfort in the fact that the aviation industry takes countless precautions to keep passengers safe.

The fact is that above all else, our top priority is safety and safety managers have an excellent opportunity to not only contribute to safety, and SMS requirements, but also to the financial bottom line.

Additional Aviation Safety Manager Articles

Managing Risk Will Remain a Never-Ending Task

We all know that aviation Safety Management Systems (SMS) are put in place to enhance safety and to assess every possible hazard and risk, such as:

  • is the engine performing optimally;
  • are the plane doors screwed down tight as a clam;
  • does the plane contains leaks or breaches;
  • are their birds or FOD on the runway;
  • is the tarmac clear of tools/vehicles?
  • And so on.

Unfortunately, hazards will always be as a cancerous appendage to the aviation industry. Fortunately, our industry has made remarkable strides in both drafting and optimizing safety standards within the past two decades.

Download Free Hazard and Risk Assessment Test

What Role Does Aviation Safety Software Play?

The reason why aviation service providers enjoy higher safety standards today lie within one word: Software. The Computer Age is by far the safest time for passengers in the history of aviation. Aviation SMS software has enabled hazards to be rapidly

  • Identified;
  • Reported;
  • Stored for easy retrieval;
  • Organized;
  • Responded to;
  • Mitigated;
  • Monitored; and
  • Analyzed for trends.

Modern Aviation Safety Management Software Shrinks Our World

In effect, safety management software allows the aviation industry to mature and take a more proactive and predictive – as opposed to reactive – approach to safety. Secondly, SMS software allows SMS activities to be performed in global-real-time: in other words, anybody, anywhere, can be aware of – and report – hazards as they happen.

Related Aviation Safety Software Articles

To see how software has impacted aviation safety, simply browse through the history of the Aviation Safety Network’s Database on Safety Occurrences. The trend is clearly looking good.

To put that data into perspective, take a look at the number of fatal commercial crashes in the graph below:

Fatal Accidents Graph

There are three important takeaways here:

  • The steady decline of accidents since the middle 90’s at the advent of computer software;
  • 2014 recorded the second lowest number of accidents on record (this report is five years old);
  • Most importantly, 2014 also recorded a record number of departures, which means that the percentage of departures to crashes continues to exponentially decrease;

Clearly proactive, preventative risk management strategies are rapidly improving aviation safety. CNN would seem to agree.

How SMS Pro fulfills Part 5 SA requirements

Modern Safety Management Assures Confidence in Aviation Industry

It is comforting to know that that as SMS software becomes more robust, more capable, and more integrated into the aviation industry, we can count on flights becoming safer as well. As safety standards change and SMS software grows more sophisticated, user-friendly and capable, we can expect that the aviation industry will continue to invest more capital in the best aviation safety management software.

Hazards, risk and risk controls can be monitored in real time to reduce risk to as low as reasonably possible. Risk is reduced not only by safety risk management (SRM) and safety assurance (SA) processes, but by SMS software that has risk management capabilities.

Have you read…

Ultimately, the aviation industry’s level of success depends on its ability to keep passengers safe – and ensure that they feel safe as well.

Take Malaysia Airlines for example. Two commercial crashes in 2014 have nearly put the company out of business in only a year. Why? Because passengers have lost faith in Malaysia Air’s safety standards.

In the aviation industry, safety and success are interchangeable words. It’s that simple.

Which brings us back to why aviation safety management software matters:

  • This sophisticated and ever-changing SMS software plays a fundamental part in preventative, proactive an d predictive safety in the aviation industry;
  • I would be willing to bet that most passengers aren’t even aware that safety management software exists, and it’s our job to educate and remind passengers that countless resources, manpower, and safety software driven by historical precedent and latest technologies reinforce their safety;
  • We need to improve proactive hazard reporting and documenting all real hazards. minor incidents and close calls. The evolution of safety management software, and ultimately the safety of the aviation industry as a whole depends on stakeholders diligently reporting new/recurring hazards and anything that looks potentially unsafe.
  • As an industry as a whole, we have the capability of accepting incredible amounts of data in the forms of safety reporting systems and auditing systems. What the aviation safety industry workflow has lacked is an efficient methodology or processes that is supported by aviation SMS software. Trend analysis is made incredibly easy now that aviation SMS software provides the ability to easily document, categorize and dispatch minor incidents using safety risk management (SRM) and safety assurance (SA) processes.
  • Aviation SMS software should bring two traditionally separate systems, SRM and SA, and integrate them to allow continuous performance monitoring of the SMS. When SRM and SA systems can talk to each other, safety professionals and operational department heads can monitor the effectiveness of risk controls in real time.


Final Thoughts on Evolution of Aviation Safety Management Technologies

Let’s face it, at a fundamental level, an aircraft is a metal tube traveling five miles above the ground at around 500mph – a scary prospect at best. That being said, let’s continue to improve safety management strategies and the respective SMS software.

Aviation safety software influences safety culture and the effectiveness of aviation SMS. Your SMS will never realize maximum return on investment and other intangible benefits without the ability to easily receive safety reports and treat them very quickly. Modern aviation safety software is powered by enterprise grade databases that can securely store and retrieve large amounts of data.

Related Aviation SMS Database Articles

SMS is a process that works if you have tools to reduce the SMS documentation requirements. The easiest way to deal with the SMS documentation requirements is to “not deal with them,” which is what many failing aviation SMS suffer from.

A failing SMS may either:

  • not understand how an SMS is truly designed to reduce operational risk; or
  • lack the tools to practice proactive and predictive risk management; or
  • lack the training required to take full advantage of the aviation safety software; or
  • have short term business requirements to not spend more than necessary on safety.

In short, aviation safety software increases the risk management capabilities of safety professionals. Managers can be assured of better decision-making abilities when they have data to make performance based decisions instead of “gut based decisions.”

If you are wanting to reduce your risk exposure by using aviation safety software to specifically address SMS requirements, we can help. Please watch these short demo videos to see whether we are a good fit for you.


Watch SMS Demo Videos

Privacy, Transparency, and Confidentiality in Aviation Safety Management – SMS Pro

What are Responsibility, Confidentiality, and Privacy in Aviation Safety Management

Privacy, transparency, and confidentiality in aviation SMSIn aviation safety management, responsibility, confidentiality, and privacy are the triad that affect how you handle reported safety information. Whether your organization is large or small, your leadership team needs to discuss these factors and decide how to handle them.

Your organization may decide that it doesn’t need to pay particular attention to this triad, or it may draft several pieces of formal documentation and policies about them. Either way, what is important is that as an aviation service provider:

  • You know where your company stands on each item;
  • Your stance on the triad matches company goals; and
  • Your stance on the triad is consistent with your partners and clients needs.

Here is what responsibility, transparency, and confidentiality are in aviation safety management, and how your organization should handle each one.

Resources for getting aviation safety management system started

What is Confidentiality in Aviation Safety Management

Confidentiality in aviation Safety Management is how much personal information is included in available safety reports and other safety concerns. In other words, when reviewing safety reports/publications how much information should employees know about:

  • What people were involved;
  • What departments were involved;
  • What teams were involved; and
  • What [you fill in the blank for identifying parties] were involved.

Confidentiality is about identifying information. Who do you want or not want to be identified? Identifying information can be:

  • Direct – you know what party was involved because they were named specifically
    • Names of people
    • Name of department
    • Name of team/contractor
  • Indirect – you know what party was involved based on implication
    • Location information
    • Equipment/aircraft/vehicle involved (consider situation where only one party has access to piece of equipment/aircraft – naming it would imply who was involved)

How to Handle Confidentiality in Aviation Safety Management

Leadership in your aviation SMS need to take a stance on confidentiality. It could be anything from:

  • Leadership agreeing that they don’t care much about confidentiality; to
  • Leadership drafting a formal confidentiality policy.

Either way, there are several factors that affect what stance you organization takes regarding confidential information, including:

  • The size of your company;
  • What type of aviation service provider you are – your confidentiality stance should be on par with your clients
    • Do you work with sensitive clients?
    • Do you work with government?
    • Do you provide public service
  • Existing Norms and safety culture in your organization;
  • Company posture on safety transparency;
  • Rolesresponsibilities, and access to information;
  • If you want information kept from auditors; and
  • What personal information you are comfortable with including in safety reports.

To structure your stance on confidentiality, you need to consider these factors.

What is Transparency in Aviation Safety Management

Transparency in aviation safety management is about how much safety information access employees have. Whereas confidentiality is concerned more with privacy and identifying information, transparency is how much of types of information specific roles in your company can see.

Transparency affects things like whether or not:

  • Employees can view other reports submitted in their division/department;
  • Employees can view other reports submitted in their company;
  • Employees can view what actions and decisions have been made on a reported concern;
  • How they are notified of submitted issues;
  • Who manages highly sensitive and confidential issues; and
  • How involved employees are in change management.

Different Levels of Transparency

Aviation safety management systems with range from:

  • Low transparency – Employees have very limited access to reported information, for example:
    • Front line employees can only see issues they report
    • Employees cannot see specific actions taken on issues unless management notifies them
    • Strict user roles hierarchy in the SMS for view/management/access privileges
    • Non-management employees have very little involvement in change management
  • High transparency – employees have a lot of access to most reporting information, for example
    • Front line employees can see most issues reported in their division/company
    • Employees can see actions taken on reported issues
    • Some user role hierarchy, either documented or an “informal” hierarchy
    • Employees are notified of changes and may be able to weigh in their opinion on the changes

Your organization will likely fall somewhere in between. Often times, organizations with low transparency tend to be either:

  • Handling a lot of sensitive information;
  • Operating with poor safety culture; or
  • Large with numerous safety roles and responsibilities.

Organizations with high transparency tend to be either:

  • Small with flexible safety roles and responsibilities;
  • Operating with a mature safety culture; or
  • Handling routine, non-sensitive information.

It’s a very good idea to have a commitment to transparency, be that a commitment to being open and available with information or being committed to keeping reported information secure and private.

What is Safety [Information] Responsibility in Aviation Safety

Safety information responsibility in aviation safety is about:

  • How is your organization taking ownership of reported safety information; and
  • Who is managing safety information?

Mismanagement of safety information (i.e., irresponsibility), usually winds up with:

  • Safety information not being reported;
  • Safety information being lost; or
  • Inconsistent safety information, such as different spreadsheets with different information.

Your organizations needs to ensure:

  • All reported safety information is safe and reliable;
  • Responsible mangers are being accountable for reported information; and
  • Employees are reporting safety concerns.

Responsibility is everyone’s job.

How to Handle Safety Information Responsibility Safety

Some good practices your organization can adopt to ensure safety information is owned, reliable, and reported are:

  • Develop a mandatory/voluntary reporting policy;
  • Perform internal audits/inspections on managed issues; and
  • Invest in an SMS point solution or aviation safety management software to ensure that safety information is reliable.

In short, invest in the resources (tools, documentation) and ensure that safety information is handled well.



What is Safety Policy – With Free Resources

What is Safety Policy?

The Safety Policy pillar in an SMS defines roles, responsibilities, and relationships outlined in organizational policies and procedures.

Objective of Safety Policy

Aviation safety and risk management systems must define policies, procedures, and organizational structures to accomplish goals that ensure continued safety.

Safety Policy requirements define

  • Roles,
  • Responsibilities, and
  • Relationships outlined in policies and procedures.

Policies must be translated into procedures. Furthermore, organizational controls must be implemented ensuring these policies are practiced and enforced. In short, aviation service providers develop, document, and maintain procedures to carry out safety policies and objectives.

Software Tools to Manage Safety Policy

SMS Pro has very good Web-based tools to help organizations construct, document and communicate these requirements.

Aviation SMS Safety Policy Modules

The Safety Policy element also requires organizations to ensure that employees understand their roles with the SMS program. SMS Pro has an SMS Induction Manager module that assists managers to document and communicate these requirements.

Download Free Safety Policy Resources
These following resources have been selected because they help safety managers organize and document SMS requirements relating to the Safety Policy pillar. All of these resources are free, and they include both educational resources and other tools, such as checklists, templates, and assessments for Safety Policy.

Aviation SMS Test Your Knowledge: KPIs

Do you know basic facts about KPIs/SPIs?

This pop quiz features 4 questions that cover basic knowledge of key performance indicators (also known as KPIs or SPIs). At the end of the quiz you will get an explanation of each question, including links to relevant KPI resources. This quiz and its resources are FREE – you don’t need to give any personal information. Ready to test your knowledge?