Implementing SMS

Phased Implementation

The aim of a phased implementation is to effectively manage the associated workload and expectations of an SMS in a realistic and organised timeframe. It achieves a progressive implementation of all the elements (of the ICAO SMS framework), targeting each element at its correct period. It will also make provisions, for existing practices and procedures, as well as the policies, to be merged and consolidated in the broader SMS scope. Through this, resources are efficiently allocated in a sustainable way. Constructing the SMS in a progressive manner, allows for a robust building of the system.

The decision on which elements are targeted first, rests within the operator/ organisation, subject to approval and agreement with the Authorities. As many elements might pre-exist at a satisfactory (or in a basic form), planning the implementation will remove unnecessary duplication of work. Phased implementation must pass through 4 stages, definition, planning, execution, delivery. Examples of the planning stage can be found in the ICAO SMM, as well as in the Authorities’ guides. It is up to the organisation to decide if the planning will follow the 4 pillars of the ICAO SMS framework in each phase, or if to target a mix of elements from each pillar. A contributing and decisive factor for the decision will come from the GAP analysis results, where the management will have a picture of what is already existing, what is missing and what is urgently required. GAP analysis should be performed either beforehand or the latest during the definition phase. For a newly established operator, it could be easier to just follow the 4 pillars, as the definition and planning phase will require the fundamental elements of Policy pillar (management commitment, safety key personnel, responsibilities, documentation etc). In the same context, providing the required training to safety key personnel (element 4.1 Safety Training), is also an initial requirement. But a correct planning should differentiate and make adjustments for the correct timing of the training provided to key personnel and the training provided to management or to front-line employees. Likewise, SMS documentation will be progressively introduced in each phase as an ongoing activity during the system creation. Safety communication will also be an element constantly evolving and maturing during the whole process, as it vital for the correct coordination.

An SMS through its implementation, will reach its maturity over years. As such, the phased implementation planning should consider thoroughly the timeframe and the timeline. It is not a requirement that each phase bears the same resources or has the same time-period allocation. It is essential though, that these periods are well defined and planned in advance in order to have control over the process and have set and specific targets. An SMS implementation in a small and non-complex organisation or service provider can be achieved within a period of two years, whilst for a full services airline could take more than 5 years (depending on the starting point and pre-existing policies)

The planning should also make room for unforeseen circumstances and events that could delay the process (e.g. management change) as well as for the strategy of the organisation (expansion plans, change of operation etc).

SMS implementation requires a good coordination internally at all company levels and within all departments. But it also requires good coordination and communication with the Authorities. The implementation plan must be agreed and be approved by the Authorities. It is an auditable element and as such the organisation is expected to abide by it. Any changes or delays or modifications must always be coordinated and approved.

The ultimate scope of the implementation process is to take the organisation from the status of commitment and planning, through a level of reactive and then a proactive SMS, eventually reaching the continuous improvement and the learning culture.