Why have an SMS?

Aircraft Low Over The RunwayExperience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first and the lessons afterward.

Oscar Wilde

A Safety Management System is a Systematic, logical and organised way to manage safety.  Safety must be a high priority in every organisation, especially so in aviation where the consequences of breaches can be severe. But it should be prioritised in context with other competing aims like efficiency and creating profit or goodwill.  If an organisation devotes all resources to only one priority, it will clearly be at the expense of others.

Too often SMS is seen as a compliance issue only but it is not.  It is an organisational tool like any other. With correct employment, it creates good management, leadership,  a safety culture and efficiency and safety almost becomes a by-product as a result of these.

Read a CASA discussion paper on SMS.

Aviation stakeholders

Commercial Airplane RefuelingIn order to ensure all inputs and knowledge is known before decisions are made with respect to aviation safety, it is important to consider all stakeholders;

  • Aviation professionals
  • Aircraft owners & operators
  • Manufacturers
  • Aviation regulatory authorities
  • Industry trade associations
  • Regional air traffic service providers
  • Professional associations
  • International aviation organisations
  • Investigative agencies
  • The flying public
  • ???

Humans and errors

Picture courtesy geograph.org.uk
Picture courtesy geograph.org.uk

Human error, in some form or another, causes all aviation incidents and accidents. SMS is required because whenever humans are part of a system, errors will occur.  The aim is not to eliminate all error, but create a system where the errors can be managed and contained, and not lead to catastrophic consequences.

Errors within a system can be;

  • Reduced by eliminating contributing factors such as design, ergonomics or training
  • Captured by using strategies before consequences – such as checklists, task cards and SOPs
  • Tolerated and managed by introducing system redundancies – such as challenge and response checks

The aim is to change the work conditions and the environment in which errors occur, not try to eliminate all error (‘Drain the swamp’, not kill all mosquitoes…)Error


The Miners Memorial – Broken Hill