Safety Management System Concept

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According to Stolzer, Halford, and Goglia (2011), safety management system (SMS) is a business management system that is used to help in the management of safety issues in an organization. It is an effective way that helps in the identification and control of risks. One of the features of this system is that it adopts a systematic approach in the management of safety risks. In this regard, it facilitates goal setting, planning, and performance measurement. It has also been postulated that a safety management system should be an integral part of the organizational culture, and it should influence how the employees carry out their duties.

According to Pardy and Andrews (2009), there are some elements that are considered to be very critical to the adoption of a safety management system, namely. These include ethical issues, legal requirements, and financial factors. The employer has a moral obligation to provide a safe working environment for his employees. On its part, the government puts the necessary legal provisions to ensure adherence to safety. The major objective of safety is to ensure that the risk exposure of the organization is reduced to a great extent. The net effect of this is that the direct and indirect costs that are associated with risk are reduced significantly. This implies that the financial exposure of business due to risk is reduced considerably.

An effective safety management system should encompass the following. Firstly, it should explain how the organization is organized to manage risk. The safety management system should also provide a means of identifying risks that may occur in a workplace set up. It should be capable of providing controls to help mitigate these risks to a manageable level. The safety management system should also provide effective communication across the entire organization.

More importantly, the safety management system should also incorporate a system that can be used to note any deviances from the laid down plans. Finally, the safety management system should help in the setting up of a continuous improvement process.

The elements of SMS

Perezgonzalez (2005) contends that there are four major pillars upon which SMS is based. These pillars determine the efficiency of the system in enhancing safety in the operations of the organization. One of these pillars is the safety policy. This implies that there is a need to develop a safety policy, which should then be communicated across the entire organization. It has been said that a safety policy should show the management commitment to enhancing safety.

Furthermore, it should show how safety measures will be integrated into the organizational structure (Ashford, Mumayiz, and Wright, 2011). In the preparation of the safety policy, all the stakeholders should be involved. Some of the features of an effective safety policy include the desire to see the implementation of the SMS. Additionally, it needs to show how the top-level management will be involved in the monitoring of the safety measures.

The employees should also be encouraged to report on any issue regarding safety. The safety policy should also contain an undertaking by management to provide all the necessary resources that will be required in the process of safety management. Another feature of the safety policy is that it shows the organizational structure that will be used to perform the functions of safety management. There is also a need to ensure that there is no conflict between safety management and the other functions in the organization. The safety policy should also include the measures that the organization will need to take to identify and remedy risks.

The other pillar of SMS is safety promotion. This can be achieved by using effective communication throughout the organization to emphasize the need for adherence to safety practices. Safety promotion can be achieved by ensuring that the employees embrace a culture that recognizes the need to uphold safety in the organization. Additionally, the employees must be trained on the safety procedures that they are expected to observe to minimize the risks.

Another basis upon which SMS is built is the safety risk management. The management should appreciate the fact that risks cannot be eliminated. For this reason, there should be a means of reducing the severity of those risks. One of how the severity of these risks can be whittled down is by ensuring that the company has a sound risk management approach.

The other pillar for SMS is safety assurance. This process ensures that the system is continuously assessed to ensure that the objectives are being attained. Some of how this can be achieved include internal audits, external audits, and remedial actions.

Importance of SMS in the aviation industry

Dillingham (2010) adduces that the safety management system has become a very important part of the aviation industry. The concept emphasizes that organizations need to consider safety in the same way as the other aspects of business management. For a long time, the management of safety in the aviation industry took the form of analyzing past accidents to come up with ways of avoiding the reoccurrence of those accidents. However, with the current low rate of accidents, it is imprudent to depend so much on this method.

One of the ways in which safety can be assured in the aviation industry is by ensuring that all the processes are well monitored. to ensure that the right methods are adopted to avoid the occurrence of risks. Towards this end, the aviation industry considered putting up a safety management system that recognizes the need to integrate safety management into its core operations. It has been adduced that a lot of the accidents that take place in the aviation industry are due to human error. For this reason, there is an erroneous perception that the people who cause these accidents are incompetent or even careless. However, this is far from the truth since the human intervention in an accident is usually in the final stages of a chain that leads up to an accident.

This implies that the underlying causes of these accidents must be addressed in order to reduce their incidence. This is because the mere replacement of those people will not necessarily translate to a reduction in those accidents. The overall safety of the aviation industry can be assured by adopting a systematic approach to managing safety. This implies that all parts of an organization must take part in a process that seeks to reduce the level of risk that it is exposed to.

Some of the assumptions made under this approach are that there will always be human errors and other factors that tend to increase the probability of the occurrence of risks. For this reason, safety management systems take an approach that emphasizes the need to communicate about these risks with a view to minimizing their incidence. This would have an effect of reducing the incidence of risks in the aviation industry.

Benefits of safety management systems

According to Stolzer, Halford, and Goglia (2010), the aviation industry has been able to maintain a remarkably low level of safety in recent times. However, the challenge is on how to maintain this level of safety. It is expected that the number of takeoffs and landings is set to increase. This calls for the adoption of an effective method of ensuring safety. It has been mentioned that the safety management system is an application of management and engineering principles to ensure that safety is upheld in an organization. Therefore, it results in a greater likelihood that safety will be upheld at all times.

A safety management system includes activities such as planning, goal setting, documentation and a means of ensuring compliance with the laid down standards of safety. In addition, some of the principles that are advocated for under this approach include the commitment of management to safety. This is very critical because the actions and attitudes of the top management have a significant bearing on the performance of the rest of the employees. Moreover, this approach encompasses the principle of proactive identification of risks. This principle avers that there should be a method of ensuring early identification of the factors that are likely to increase the likelihood of occurrence of a risk. This could have the effect of reducing the number of resources that could be expended in the event that such an accident occurs.

Furthermore, the system encompasses the principle of relevant actions being taken to manage risks. This implies that when a risk has actually taken place an action should be taken to counteract or even mitigate the effect of such a risk. The system also recognizes the need for evaluation of the safety actions. For this reason, there should be a continuous evaluation of the efficiency of risk management actions. It is apparent that the above-mentioned principles exist in traditional safety systems. For this reason, it must be appreciated that the safety management principle is not a new safety management system, but it places a heavy reliance on current safety approaches.

However, Ayres (2009) contend that a major difference that distinguishes the safety management system from the current approaches is that it takes a proactive approach to the management of risks. For this reason, safety management system anticipates risks and takes the necessary precautions to avoid them. Moreover, the safety management system ensures that all levels and segments of the organization participate actively in safety operations. This ensures that a large number of people are involved in safety management, and the net effect of this is that it is highly unlikely that a hazard will go unnoticed.

According to Wiener and Nagel (1989), safety management system also recognizes that human and organizational errors cannot be eliminated in entirety. For this reason, it seeks to embed a culture in the organization that emphasizes safety. This implies that all the factors that can increase the likelihood of a risk occurring are eliminated. This can go a long way in reducing the likelihood of risks and in promotion of safety in the aviation industry. One of the greatest strengths of the safety management system is that it does not impose a new structure for the management of safety, but rather integrates safety management into the other processes of the organization.

The major objective of SMS is to ensure that there is enhanced safety. This implies that there should be fewer accidents and fatalities. At the same time, it has been postulated that effective safety management reduces material losses, and it also enhances the productivity of the aviation industry. Some of the benefits that are evident from this systematic approach to safety include the reduction in the direct and indirect costs that are associated with accidents. It has also been adduced that it can greatly improve employee morale and motivation since SMS promotes communication across the entire organization.

Furthermore, SMS can go a long way in projecting the aviation industry in the most favorable light. Consequently, it can lead to a positive image for the industry in the eyes of the public since it will be perceived as having a good safety record. SMS promotes risk mitigation measures that can be instrumental in the promotion of safety and the organization’s bottom line. Also, it can be an effective tool in helping the aviation industry to comply with the legal requirements for safety.

According to Stranks (2012), another benefit of SMS is that it helps in the avoidance of the costs that are associated with investigations and interruptions in the operations of the organization. This is because the likelihood of accidents will be diminished considerably. SMS also build upon past experiences with a view to incorporating the lessons learned into the system. This enhances the level of safety and leads to a reduction in the number of accidents.

The entities that are involved with the regulation of safety in the aviation industry, for example, ICAO and the FAA have expressed their confidence in the implementation of SMS as a tool for the enhancement of safety. A very important outcome of the SMS is that it brings about a new culture in the organization that emphasizes the safety of all the operations that are undertaken in the organization.

Even though there were no specific accidents that triggered the adoption of SMS in the aviation industry, there have been some accidents that have helped to emphasize the need for safety. This includes an accident that occurred in France in which about 113 people were killed when the airplane that they had boarded caught fire after its landing gear was damaged by a strip of metal. This accident could have been avoided had there being a concerted effort to analyze past accidents involving the same kind of aircraft.


It is clear that safety in the aviation industry is of utmost importance. To ensure this safety, there is a need to adopt a safety management system that will take a systematic approach to risk. There should be ways for the identification of possible risks, as well as factors that are likely to fuel the occurrence of the risk. At the same time, it should be appreciated that it is impossible to eliminate all risks. Subsequently, the safety management system should incorporate risk management to reduce those risks to manageable levels.

Reference List

Ashford, N., Mumayiz, S and Wright, P. (2011). Airport Engineering: Planning, Design and Development of 21st Century Airports. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Ayres, M. (2009). Safety Management Systems for Airports: Guidebook. Washington, DC: Transportation Research Board.

Conrow, E. (2003). Effective Risk Management: Some Keys to Success. Washington, DC: American institute of aeronautics and astronautics, Inc.

Dillingham, G. (2010). Aviation Safety. Darby, PA : Diane publishing.

Pardy, W., and Andrews, T. (2009). Integrated Management Systems: Leading Strategies and Solutions. Plymouth, United Kingdom: The Scarecrow Press.

Perezgonzalez, J. (2005). Construction Safety Management, A Systems Approach. Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu press.

Stolzer, A., Halford, C., and Goglia, J. (2011). Implementing Safety Management Systems in Aviation. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing.

Stolzer, A.,Halford, C., and Goglia, J. (2010). Safety Management Systems in Aviation. Burlington, VT: Ashgate publishing.

Stranks, J. (2012). Health and Safety Pocket Book. Burlington, MA: Routledge.

Wiener, E., and Nagel, D. (1989). Human Factors in Aviation. Cambridge, MA: Elsevier B.V.

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