Safety Management

In the Aviation Industry, we talk about safety and Safety Management Systems (SMS), develop processes and add audits to make the operation safe, reducing the risk to 'as low as reasonable practicable' (ALARP).


The development of the Safety Management System (SMS) approach to enhance safety, arose as the result of a series of high profile accidents that occurred in the late 1980's, i.e. the Space Shuttle Challenger, Chernobyl and the Herald of Free Enterprise. Although caused by human error, systemic management faults were identified as a major factor.

A generic SMS is best described as a holistic approach that creates defined, organisation-wide policies and procedures, formal organisational structure with the associated accountabilities to manage safety as shown in Fig.1.

Figure 1: The Organisational Triangle (Guldenmund 2010)

What do We Want to Achieve?

Whilst the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 19 sets out the requirements for the SMS, it is often poorly understood or applied as a 'tick the box' exercise. We firmly believe in the benefits of dynamic approach to risk management, one that allows the organisation to realise safety gains through a scaled approach to your organisation's risk.

The aviation industry continues to develop and the added complexity in itself is a challenge, with larger more complex organisations, that can lead to the stage were individuals become ignorant of the behaviour of the complete system and this can only be corrected by the development of a process to promote information transfer, both 'bottom-up' and 'top-down'.

Remember that a SMS is but a process within the organisational system, it cannot alter behaviours without a positive safety culture, built upon trust, with the aim to develop a 'Just Culture', promoting vital free communication of information This in turn opens the way forward to organisational safety development (i.e. maturity); proactive safety can only be implemented when the flow of information from all levels is encouraged and rewarded. The famous example of the early Redstone missile development and the engineer who came forward to explain his error that resulted in an inflight failure. Von Braun stated that (cited in Westrum, 2014)

"I sent the engineer a bottle of champagne because I wanted everybody to know that honesty pays off, even if someone may run the risk of incriminating himself. Absolute honesty is something you simply cannot dispense with in a team effort as difficult as that of missile development."

Safety management has moved through three ages and the challenges of today's complex socio-technic systems that are highly dynamic, require the continued evolution as proposed by Resilience Engineering (RE). RE builds upon the discussed facets of safety and highlights four: learning from experience based on real events, flexibility and adaptability to react positively to both regular and irregular threats, flexible monitoring of both organisational performance and external conditions that are vital to the operation and going beyond risk analysis, to anticipate threats and opportunities (Hollnagel, 2014).


Our team have true in-depth knowledge that is applied in 'Real World' solutions that can add value and guide you towards a truly effective SMS covering:

Contact us for a discussion to see how you can benefit from a practical SMS approach.


Hollnagel, E. (2014). Safety-I and Safety-II: The Past and Future of Safety Management. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Westrum, R. (2014). The study of information flow: A personal journey. Safety Science, 67, 58–63.