[Aviation] Safety Management System

What will be the top criteria for the passenger to choose which airline he or she wants to fly with? I bet most of all will consider a safety record of an airline as a main factor of choosing a flight. Even personally for me, I would hesitate and most probably not to take a flight with a bad safety record airline although the airline offers a cheaper flight ticket. This indeed happening here where many travellers come and transit in Hong Kong just to take a connecting flight to somewhere else like Europe, America or to the other parts of Asia. They could take a direct flight with their home based airline, but the passengers seems more confident to fly with HK based airlines and willing to pay more just to make sure they are flying with a better safety record airline.

I just happened to attend a seminar about aviation safety regarding “EASA Safety Management Systems Regulations – The new Part 145 and Part M SMS and enhanced Human Factors Regulations” on last week. The speaker, Chris Dew from Baines Simmons (EASA Safety Consultant Firm) gave a talk and discussed about this topic in the seminar. As for the background about the speaker, Chris Dew used to work with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as a regulator before.

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Safety Management System (SMS) in aviation is almost similar to the safety management practice in other industry as well. The same concept to establish safety policy, organizing, planning, implementation, evaluation and action for improvement to minimize and control hazards is also applies to the aviation industry. A SMS system provides a systematic way to identify hazards and control risks while maintaining assurance that these risk controls are effective. Many regulators including HK Civil Aviation Department (HKCAD) and Department Civil Aviation Malaysia (DCAM) have also imposed for every airline to have SMS policy as part of the requirement.

How hazards in aviation industry are controlled? They are many means to identify, evaluate and control the hazard, but the intention is same which is to reduce the risk of disaster from happening. Just to give an example on how a Mandatory Occurrence Report (MOR) reporting system is used in SMS policy. An MOR is defined as any incident relating to an aircraft or any defect in (or malfunctioning of) an aircraft or any part or equipment of such an aircraft, being an incident, malfunctioning or defect endangering, or which if not corrected would endanger, the aircraft, its occupants, or any other person. This MOR reporting system is part of SMS policy for an airline.

For example if we have an Engine In-flight Shutdown incident, this event is to be consider as a significant threat and it should be reported to aviation authority as an MOR. An investigation need to be initiated for this MOR incident. Through MOR, the investigation will be carried out to find out what was the cause of the incident, determine the likelihood for similar event whether it can occur on the other aircraft, establish whether any inspection required for the rest of the fleet and also determine what need to be done to avoid similar incident in the future. This activity is part of SMS policy in the airline organization to reduce and control the hazards.

Many of the airlines in the world already have the SMS policy in their organization. However, according to the speaker, the most challenging part is to establish a safety culture in the organization and change the mindset of every employee. We can identify and control the hazard if it is visible, however how about the threats that are not visible? The only way to do that is through promoting safety culture in the organization. If every employee has the safety mentality in their mind, they will report every identified hazard and threat in their organization and the management should take seriously every report that they received. At the same time, the management should create a comfortable environment to encourage reporting culture from employee without penalising any employee who reporting any bad practice in their workplace.

Ir. Edie Noreffendi
Hong Kong
8 Dec 2013

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