Aviation has always been an industry where complex systems and technologies posed challenges. In this kind of business, operational safety and risk awareness are at the first place. New threats to safety are appearing constantly and it forces people to change their way of thinking about the management of the aviation safety. The old approaches should have been changed in favor of the new ones. It is important to change the way of engineering, training, maintaining and operating. Surely, these kinds of changes need additional education and skills. Nowadays engineering and technology programs should include hazard and risk management if the goal of a company is to succeed in the aviation industry. The new approach to ensuring effective and productive work of any aviation company has been created, and it is called Safety Management System.
Safety Management System (SMS) is an organizational system for a safety management in any sphere of business. It is of critical importance for the aviation industry as safety could prevent an accident or incident and make a company prosperous. SMS deals with a great variety of safety management tools, starting with senior management commitment and ending with remedial actions. The primary goal of SMS program is to generate safety culture and provide the necessary management environment for a company that will identify and resolve safety problems. This paper covers the history and main concepts of SMS, its principles, regulatory and implementation aspects. It will also determine the operating of SMS, human factors and the system's contribution to the safety. All these factors are necessary to discuss to show how significant the safety culture is and what benefits it could bring.
The Importance of Safety Culture in SMS
For a company to work properly, safety should encompass every part of the organization. Nowadays, the ability to identify hazards, assess risks, and find corrective and preventative solutions is more valuable for a worker than the skills in changing an engine or fixing a flight control system. Inattention to details can lead to catastrophic results, so workers should be well-trained and educated about the principles of the new safety program. SMS means systematic businesslike approach to safety management, and it was adapted for air operations in flight and maintenance operations all over the world. Countries that would like to implement SMS should strictly follow safety requirements. They should be also ready to face problems associated with implementing of this program into companies regardless of the business sphere. In addition to all the factors mentioned above, this program will work efficiently only if every member of an organization will be involved in the process. Such a situation can cause some misunderstanding within the company and could be stressful for the staff. Although the process of implementing SMS can be extremely difficult and tedious, the system is worth being adopted.
Safety Culture, its History and Main Concepts of SMS
Safety Culture is considered to be a set of values and attitudes to safety issues by every member of an organization. It means that every worker should be aware of risks and unsafe situations that can happen within the company and he/she should try to avoid them by all means. Any management system cannot work properly without an appropriate Safety Management System; therefore, it should be an important part of any management training and seminar. Primarily, safety management was an engineering task and all improvements were done with the help of investigation approach after an accident had happened. For example, when an accident took place, it was investigated to determine the cause and reasons of the disaster as well as to make recommendations for its prevention in the future. However, later, people understood that it could be more productive and effective to introduce Safety Management System in companies to prevent accidents.
The goal of SMS is to help any company to develop preventive measures to avoid incidents by identifying usual cases of their occurrence. In other words, the safety program helps reduce any kind of risks. Generally, aviation is considered to be an expensive business, and some managers believe that buying a plane at a high price includes safety by itself. Surely, airplanes, well-educated crew, and trainings are not cheap and they are a significant part of the safety program, but it does not mean that they represent SMS as a whole. A safety program is a separate unit essential for an effective company's operation that requires a lot of attention and knowledge. Such a program provides a valuable tool to channel company's efforts in achieving safety aims.
The main idea of SMS operating is that everyone should be involved in the process. Firstly, it is important to distinguish people who deal with safety issues and then determine their functions. For example, people who are responsible for safety during a flight are an aircraft manufacturer, an aircraft owner, an aircraft operator, an insurer, passengers and cargo owners, airports' authorities and handlers, industry associations and regulatory bodies. Each of them has particular obligations that must be fulfilled. Proper discharging of duties of every participant ensures that the system operates efficiently. For instance, an aircraft owner should select a well-educated crew and do a proper training for them. If he/she fails at this step and hires an inexperienced crew team or does not provide an efficient training for them, the level of safety will become lower accordingly. So the fulfillment of each person's obligations is incredibly significant and it cannot be ignored. Moreover, it is not only important to fulfill the obligations, but it is also necessary to determine them. Usually, people even do not know exactly what kind of obligations they have and, surely, they do not pay much attention to details that can be crucial. One example of this can be a statistical tabulation. On the one hand, it does not look so significant comparing with building aircrafts or repairing them, although it can stand in a good stead when there is a need to analyze the tendency of accidents, repetition and causes of incidents. The person whose job is to make a statistic should take it seriously and never think that inaccuracy in numbers will not be seen. Even a minor error can result into a catastrophe in the future.
Regulatory Aspects and Implementation
In order to create and implement Safety Management System, every company should follow SMS Manual Document published by ICAO. Apart from this, it is important to know the regulatory authority requirements and guidelines. Also, the determination of SMS components that are currently in place and elements that should be added to achieve the goal are significant. To implement the safety system within the company, firstly, managers should be aware of the components that are required for SMS, and it is needed to draw a plan for the goal achievement. Besides, every member of the organization should have the possibility to take part in development and implementation of SMS. The company's policy should be clearly explained to everyone. A safety manager should provide enough support to the staff and encourage them to work. The main challenges that could be faced during the implementation of SMS are resistance to change, skepticism, and misunderstanding of concepts. Another challenge can be the difficulties with the understanding of operations' processes and relevancy of safety performance indicators. The systematic approach is needed here, and it can be difficult to follow the schedule all the time without fail. During the Safety Management System implementation process, there can be the illusion of control and it is most likely that the staff will not like it. Implementing of SMS requires good information handling and quick decision making. Besides, the understanding of human factors underneath SMS is necessary.
To ensure effective implementation of SMS, there are some requirements that must be met. Firstly, a systematic approach for the management of safety risks is necessary as it will integrate all systems within the organization. Secondly, it should involve goal setting, planning, and performance management, which should be more focused on the organizational safety rather than on the strictly operational one. Moreover, practical exercises are significant for a productive work of the organization. They include filling out the guidance and making a gap analysis, using the checklist and discussing results.
A safety system is an effective management tool for achieving safety goals of an organization. Surely, there are different companies and each of them has its own aims. However, to my mind, there are some important advantages for any company if it uses SMS. Firstly, the company will be able to find out "weak spots" and strengthen them beforehand. Comparing with the old approach when all examinations, tests and conclusions were made after the accident, the new approach is very efficient as it saves a lot of people lives. The old approach is called reactive, while the new approach is proactive. According to the new approach, the accident can be demonstrated with documented evidence, which is impossible in the reactive approach. The second advantage follows from the previous one: SMS can save many innocent people through prevention of accidents. I suppose that it is a great advantage and SMS is worth being used in any company. Also, Safety Management System means providing a lot of trainings for the team, which results in improving employees' satisfaction and team spirit. It happens as each worker is involved in the process and cooperates with others.
Using SMS in aviation will not only help the companies accomplish the legal responsibilities but also provide them with the substantial benefits in business. SMS means more controlled management and constant improvement of operational processes. It is known that companies that have implemented SMS in their business benefited financially as well. First of all, it is the loyalty of customers. If they know that one company is more stable and safer than others, they definitely choose that company. Also, the reduction of insurance premiums is possible because of the demonstration of safety risks control. Moreover, good work balance, clear obligations, and adoption of a duty chart will help the company avoid employees' exhaustion and will improve the staff morale. It will lower staff turnover and, as a result, reduce training costs.
SMS can involve direct or indirect costs. Direct costs are clear and planned so they are easy to cope with. The problem can be with indirect costs. They are usually not covered or are partially covered by the insurance company. This can be a loss of business or reputation, legal fees or damage claims. No one can guarantee that business will be doing well all the time; a sudden catastrophe can happen anytime, so it is important to be ready for the force majeure. Then, there can be additional costs for medical treatment that is not covered by worker's compensation or cost because of loosing equipment. Surely, there will be a large loss of income. Replacement of workers can also result in additional costs. It is important to take into account the possibility of increasing insurance premiums and unexpected fines. And the last important factor that can cause additional expenses is an aircraft recovery and clean-up. Thus, there are a lot of advantages of using SMS within the company; yet, it is necessary to use this system properly.
Human Factors in SMS
People started to pay so much attention to human factors in the aviation industry after realizing that mechanical failures do not cause so many accidents as human errors do. Considering human factors in SMS includes gathering information about human abilities, behaviors, and attitudes to the different situation. It also involves applying tools, systems, and environments for a comfortable human use. Studying of human factors in aviation is important because it gives an understanding of how people can most safely integrate with technologies. Such a conception is closely connected with design, training, policies, and procedures that help human act better.
One of the most important requirements of the safety system is that daily work pressures compete for an individual's attention at management and front line levels. Except for language and social challenges, the company should also consider some maintenance challenges such as landing gear, aircraft taxing or coordination with manufacturers. To overcome all difficulties and implement the safety system, the company must adopt special system's approach and supportive work culture, which means that the staff should cooperate to identify and control risks.
There are some factors that can be useful in promoting the safety culture in the company. Firstly, it is necessary to improve the relationships between employees by setting up common goals. Also, it would be good to clarify training criteria in regard to safety and provide human factors input to improve effective data collection and analysis to support safety. In addition, it is crucial to promote and develop a proactive and predictive management of risk. In spite of the rampant development of technologies, above all, human beings are responsible for the safety and success of the aviation industry. So people must develop their knowledge, improve their efficiency, and become flexible and dedicated while excising good judgment. The primary goal for every company must be adopting a holistic and integrated approach. After that, it is necessary to put the people at the centre of the system, involve them, respect and value their input, encourage and ensure fairness of treatment. It is also important to ensure transparency of organizational processes and actions as well as take into account the human variability. Another advantage is that implementing of the safety culture improves overall safety performance in the organization and reduces the number of accidents. Moreover, it helps to meet legal and regulatory obligations simplifying the process of doing business as a whole.
A very significant factor that should be taken into consideration is that, despite the development of modern technologies, people ensure safety within the company. Therefore, much effort should be put it to increase their understanding of the safety process, encourage them to improve safety. The safety culture of the organization must be established, maintained and promoted all the time. Good communication must be ensured within the company. Human factors are one of the most important factors in Safety Management System, so a lot of attention should be paid to that.
Safety Culture consists of such characteristics as commitment, awareness, adaptability, and justness. The task of every company is to pay attention to all these units and never ignore them. The aviation industry is full of potential risks and hazards, which are difficult to eliminate. The reality is that the profit of the company depends on the safety provided for passengers and loyalty of customers. So the prime goal of any company should not be maximizing of the income but the avoidance of loss. It is possible to do that if Safety Management System is implemented within the company. SMS helps improve safety and health at the workplace for the staff. It also improves employees' morale and job satisfaction. With SMS, the productivity of the company is growing and the level of work quality increases. It ought to be noted that the competitiveness of the company that has implemented SMS is increasing and it helps to win the loyalty of customers. This is one of the most important advantages of using SMS as it is difficult to get the allegiance of the customers. Moreover, Safety Management System reduces the probability of accidents and mistakes in the company and lowers the level of absenteeism as well as employee turnover. The advantages of Safety Management System are obvious, and this program is an important and effective unit that increases the company's productivity.
Proper implementation of SMS and safety culture within a company can bring a lot of fruitful results such as reducing direct and indirect costs, improving both staff motivation and acceptance of change, increasing productivity and success of the company.
It should be acknowledged that people usually think about safety only after some accidents occur. It is hard to imagine how many lives depend on the effective implementation of the safety system. An effective safety program protects not only passengers but also those who are on the ground. An airplane crash in a big city can cause a countless number of fatalities in some seconds. That is why aircraft rules are so harsh and strict and require unconditional fulfillment. Enormous responsibility makes safety system costly to passengers and owners; however, it cannot be ignored. Saving on the safety system means trying to save on people's lives. Actually, the safety program should be highly invested; it should be more invested than any other programs. This program is closely connected with people's lives and there is nothing more valuable than this.