Air Safety Regulations Are Hitting Home: SMS Software
We had a new Sales Rep start here the other day. This is nothing new for us, but the irony was that he is going to be covering our reach into the Airline Industry and Air Safety. Here's the ironic part - on his way to the office, his flight was delayed because of a "bird-strike" incident (and no - the birds didn't go on strike, in case you're wondering...I don't think they are unionized). This got me thinking, "Air Safety Incidents happen more often than we probably know...how do the airlines currently handle these?"
Well, there's a lot of regulation in the industry regarding Air Safety. Authorities and organizations such as International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Air Transport Association (IATA), European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Transport Canada, and other CAA’s all have safety as a top priority. All CAA’s have embraced the ICAO decision to require Safety Management Systems (SMS). Major initiatives have been undertaken at numerous organizations in the industry to establish SMS.
Particularly for those of us States-side, the FAA has begun their journey into making policies for a SMS regulation for all domestic carriers, maintenance organizations, airports and the like. In fact, their framework is readily available for review on their site. Without going into two much detail, the SMS is broken into two major areas when it comes to processes - Safety Assurance, and Safety Risk Management. Here is how current technologies, like Quality Management Software (QMS) and Environmental Health and Safety Software (EHS) can easily fit into these models:
FAA Safety Management System Framework
Safety Assurance: Let's start off with the daily operations. The SMS requires that airlines monitor and track System Operations - or the daily events that occur such as Incidents, Audits, Procedures and Investigations. These are no more than the processes related to Quality and Safety, handled by many QMS and EHS solutions. Next, they need to aggregate and collect this data and provide an analysis on the data to uncover any trends, outliers or challenges. This is essentially reporting and data collection, a typically features in many QMS and EHS solutions. The next section deals with conducting a System Assessment - or asking, "Do these events conform to our operation requirements." If they do, then we still need to move on to the Corrective Action phase - while the events fit within the requirements, we still need to investigate and correct the event within our requirements scope. However, if the event do not conform to the requirements, then we need to move into the next section of the SMS - the Safety Risk Management of the SMS.
Safety Risk Management: For those events that either do not confirm to the existing requirements, or for new potential hazards, we need to conduct a comprehensive Safety Risk assessment. This is done to uncover all the potential risks of new events. The First section is the System Analysis, where new hazards are identified and analyzed. This can be done in the QMS or EHS through common elements such as Job Safety Analysis, FMEA, or similar tools, so that we can uncover all potential issues before going forward. Once that is complete, we can move to the Risk Analysis and Assessment phases. Here is where we conduct a Risk Assessment on the hazards and make informed decisions on how to move forward with controlling our hazards. In the QMS and EHS, this is something that has been done often, especially in product quality, process safety and job safety. Once we have defined our risk levels, the next phase is Risk Controls. Here is where we can establish controls to mitigate these risks, whether through procedures, training, new processes and the like. Also, if we are re-evaluating an existing control that has not mitigated risk effectively, we can initiate change management to improve upon these processes.
So in effect, the SMS framework the FAA is planning is a intuitive method that incorporates procedural quality and safety, coupled with a Risk-based approach to assessing potential hazards. Leveraging the tools and technologies from Quality and EHS, an air carrier can implement an SMS program that not only meets the FAA's framework, but be flexible enough to exceed.
So next time you are sitting on a plane and hear the pilot come over the speaker and announce that there is a "maintenance delay," realize that there are safety programs hard at work to make sure that your flight is going to be the safest possible.
Of course, I wouldn't go telling this to the birds.