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Quality Creates...Perspective

Enterprise Risk Management in Aviation Safety Management Systems

Tim Lozier
by Tim Lozier on Wed, Jan 25, 2012
Ever hear of the term, "Drinking water from a fire hose"?  No?  Here's some imagery for you:

drink from the firehoseMost of you have, and it's usually (except in the above) a metaphor for consuming too much data without any real focused approach.  This is a common problem in all industries, and many will suffer from "data paralysis" as a result - too much data, and no way to organize or use it.

Aviation Safety Management Systems (SMS) are especially susceptible to this metaphor.  In an SMS, safety data is constantly flooding into the system, from safety reports, investigations, flight data, audits, human factor analysis, and much more.  The data is often siloed in their respective processes, and is not tied or integrated in this fashion.  What results is an influx of data from multiple sources, without any way to organize or define the data.

C-level executives are looking for the big picture when assessing the overall safety of their carrier.  Incoherent and disparate data are not going to work (although many wouldn't mind feeding their CEO with a fire hose);  there needs to be a systematic and comprehensive way to assess the data and make decisions.  This is where Enterprise Risk Management makes a huge difference.  Here are some of the concepts that need to be put in place to create Risk Management within a SMS.

Organize and Standardize the Data:  Flight safety risks are commonly known, and can be placed in to several key "buckets".  Runway, Loss of Control, Mid-Air Collision, In-flight, and others are broad categories that safety events can be categorized into.  Once you've created an organizational structure, you can begin to automate the process of filtering the data into these buckets. Automated SMS software solutions will actually take these events and filter them, providing an efficient way to organize the data.  Once organized you can effectively measure the severity of each event.

Risk Assessment Tools help to Filter the Data:  Risk Assessment is a benchmark for the criticality of an event.  It helps to quantify the data based on systematic and repeatable metrics, and make better decisions based on the risk of the event.  Risk Assessment tools exist that help to create risk matrices and risk methods that incorporate your organizational policies into the risk methodologies.  I did a whole article on how to create a risk matrix, so I won't bore you with the details here.

Risk Mitigation and Reporting:  This is where the value becomes transparent for the executive.  By organizing the data and creating a risk ranking for events, executives can see a top-down view of the safety areas that pose the greatest risk.  This view allows them to not only see where the deficiencies are, but to also take immediate action on high-risk areas and seek ways to mitigate those risks. 

This process organizes the barrage of data, filters it and displays the most critical pieces of the data for consumption.  Following the analogy, you've taken your fire hose and effectively turned it into one of those fancy Brita filters:

pur water filter(why is it filtering tidy-bowl cleaner?)


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