The evolution of SMS in aviation

SMS and ICAO adaptation of HF have been evolving since the early 1990s. There came a recognition that both human and organisational factors contribute to an accident, incident or significant event.  The Piper Alpha disaster in 1988, and the subsequent Lord Cullen Inquiry, had a significant impact on the evolution of Integrated Safety and SMS.

ICAO utilised the work of Professors James Reason and Patrick Hudson (among others), to bring organisational failure and safety culture to the forefront for consideration when determining or investigating accident causation.

There are 193 member ‘States’ (Countries) that have signed up to the 1944 Chicago convention.  ICAO have mandated a standardised manner in the management of safety.  In Annex 19, and the associated guidance material, ICAO outlines the State Safety Program (SSP) which in turn defines Acceptable Level of Safety (ALoS) and Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) to achieve this. Not all States are at this time in a position to deliver both the oversight and safety management recommended.  States can set their own timeline for SMS implementation and also file differences to the ICAO framework. NZ – for example – has a unique structure that still meets the ICAO structure intent.

Of the 193 member States of ICAO, New Zealand, Canada and Australia have mandated the ICAO SARPs for SMS. Others such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have widely accepted SMS practices and expectations, and will follow suit with mandatory legislation.

Has it worked?

ICAO has also mandated that Human Factors needs to be integrated into SMS. It is recognised that an understanding of the human error impact on a safety event ultimately contributes to the development of more comprehensive and effective mitigation/corrective actions. 

However … it is a ‘fragile’ system …

2017 Airline statistics: 4.1 billion pax, 399 deaths: ‘The safest year on record’

Air Canada flight 759 – 07 July 2017 – 1091 people on 5 aircraft were involved in a near miss.

ICAO policy and Guidance

ICAO – Annex 19 to the Chicago convention 

Safety management provisions were gradually introduced into the following ICAO Annexes beginning in 2001:

  • Annex 1   — Personnel Licensing
  • Annex 6   — Operation of Aircraft
  • Annex 8   — Airworthiness of Aircraft
  • Annex 11 — Air Traffic Services
  • Annex 13 — Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation
  • Annex 14 — Aerodromes

In response to High-level Safety Conference 2010 (HLSC/2010) Recommendation 2/5, the ICAO Council supported a two-phased approach for the creation of a new safety management Annex:

  • The first phase to consolidate existing and overarching Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS), currently contained in as many as six different Annexes, into a single new Annex
  • The second phase for the development of new safety management systems.

On 25 February 2013, the ICAO Council unanimously adopted the first edition of Annex 19 with an applicability date of 14 November 2013.

While Annex 19 contains extremely important material, it is high level and aimed at development of government legislation rather than practical application at a ‘grass roots level’.

Link to Australian differences to ICAO SARPs

ICAO Safety Management Manual (SMM) Doc 9859

The SMM has developed since the first edition in 2006. The 3rd edition was produced in May 2013 to complement Annex 19, and now the 4th edition in 2018. It provides guidance material on safety management principles and concepts, the State Safety Program and Safety Management Systems, and has a three year review and amendment cycle.

The SMM is made up of nine chapters (as opposed to previously five)

  • Chapter 1 – Introduction
  • Chapter 2 – Safety Management Fundamentals
  • Chapter 3 – Safety Culture
  • Chapter 4 – State Performance Management
  • Chapter 5 – Safety data collection and processing systems
  • Chapter 6 – Safety analysis
  • Chapter 7 – Protection of safety data, safety information and related resources
  • Chapter 8 – State Safety Management
  • Chapter 9 – Safety Management Systems (SMS).

The 4th edition SMM provides more emphasis on running an SMS instead of the 3rd edition’s focus on regulatory guidance.

The government organisations that are required to comply with the SSP:

  • Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications
  • CASA
  • ATSB
  • Airservices Australia
  • Department of Defence
  • Bureau of Meteorology
  • AMSA.

ICAO SMS Framework

Component 1. Safety policy and objectives

Element 1.1    Management commitment

Element 1.2   Safety accountabilities and responsibilities

Element 1.3   Appointment of key safety personnel

Element 1.4   Coordination of emergency response planning

Element 1.5   SMS documentation

SSP quote

Component 2. Safety risk management

Element 2.1    Hazard identification

Element 2.2   Safety risk assessment and mitigation

Component 3. Safety Assurance

Element 3.1    Safety performance monitoring and measurement

Element 3.2   The management of change

Element 3.3   Continuous improvement of the SMS

Component 4. Safety promotion

Element 4.1    Training and education

Element 4.2   Safety communication.

ICAO and other resources

ICAO has a website to assist member states with SMS information. Member States with significant resources include Transport Canada, EASA, CAA NZ and FAA.  

Follow the links below to these resources: