Developing Effective Safety Risk Management in the Aviation Sector

Best Practice Guide

Formalizing safety management to maintain compliance, maximize benefits, and harmonize standards

Nowadays, aviation service providers resemble cities in miniature. Like municipalities, they oversee police forces, emergency services, security personnel, parking facilities, and commercial tenants, among other third- party entities. Their statutory responsibilities cover public safety, environmental health and safety, and the protective security of critical infrastructure assets. That’s why airports and airlines face a dizzying number of regulations, doled out by local, state, federal, even international enforcement agencies. Case in point: since 2006 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has required the industry to implement formal safety management systems (SMS).

In turn, national regulators have put teeth into those mandates, rightly noting that the SMS is the most effective system for limiting accident rates. For instance, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed SMS implementation compliance as the price of continued Part 139-certification, a move that would affect aviation services providers.

What do the SMS requirements entail, specifically? Traditional definitions describe a safety management system as a management system for integrating safety activities into everyday business practices. Another way to think of it is that the SMS offers a formal, systematic approach to identify hazards and control risks, such that a formalized policy of proactive hazard mitigation would enhance safety (before an incident happens) and to lead to better learnings (should an accident or incident takes place).

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