Understanding Safety / SMS Basic


Policy is the first of the 4 main pillars of the ICAO SMS framework. Policy is an important part as through this the SMS is outlined and communicated. It includes the steps taken towards achieving the wanted results, as well as the how business practices are affected through this implementation. Through the policy, we draw the baseline to engage staff into embracing the SMS principles. Policy starts with a written and signed statement by the CEO/ Accountable Manager/ Director, in which the need for everyone to be involved and provide the support is emphasised. It should also emphasise the importance of the reporting system, the delegation of safety responsibilities and appointment of safety responsible person/ team and the objectives, in an effort to establish the management commitment towards safety and the support to the operations. Through this, the framework is set and the fundamentals are established for an effective context.

Policy can be divided into 4 categories for State Safety Programmes (SSP) and into 5 categories for Organisation SMS.

The SSP Policy framework must contain the legislative background, the responsibilities and accountabilities, the accident and incident investigation and finally the enforcement policy. In a slightly different manner, the SMS policy for organisations includes the commitment and responsibilities, the safety accountabilities, the appointment of key personnel, the Coordination of the Emergency Response Planning and the documentation.


Through the policy the State Civil Aviation or other legislative bodies, aim to establish the leadership and initiative into managing the safety of the industry and protecting the stakeholders as well as the general public. Based on the international standards, the policy should cover all areas of the aviation industry; bearing in mind that it might be more practical and efficient to create multiple frameworks for each area, in order to achieve specificity and relevance. Through the development and implementation of strategies and processes, the State aims to achieve the highest safety standards possible, with support to the operators. It is also important at this stage to establish and promote the need for a voluntary and confidential reporting system and further provide the data protection required.

By clearly defining the responsibilities and the accountabilities of each department, the State aims to plan, organise, develop, maintain, control and continuously improve the SSP.

The goal of accident and incident investigation is the identification of the causes that lead to the event and to place measures in order to prevent re-occurrence. This goal must be clearly promoted and communicated, strongly emphasising the abortion of blame and liability is not an objective. This require an independent agency/ department, which will have clear functionality and prevent any conflict of interest. For this reason, Accident and Incident Investigation can be outsourced on an ad-hoc basis to specialised organisations or entities.

When referring to the enforcement policy, we refer to the intent of the State to manifest the intents of the SSP, by making a clear distinction of deliberate/ gross violation and an unintentional error/ mistake. Any disciplinary actions should also be outlined for guidance and understanding.

Organisation – Service Providers

Management Commitment is the heart of a working and efficient SMS. This commitment must be manifested in a clear and practical ways, including the appointment of safety personnel, but importantly supporting the improvement through the allocation of resources (both financial and human). The personal involvement of the top management is strongly recommended. Through the policy and commitment, the leadership shows the way and clearly explains the culture of the company. It engages people and provides an outline of the decision-making process. The statement should emphasise the non-blame, non-punitive culture and should sketch the distinction and expectations from a violation and deliberate act versus an honest unintentional error. Management must live up to its policy and it is vital not to be just another statement hanging on the wall.

By defining the accountabilities and responsibilities, we set the expectations of the SMS. Using the 3R – roles, responsibilities, relationships; we can build-up the organisational chart of crucial and critical decision-making and risk tolerability. This part is directly connected with the appoint of the key personnel, where the job responsibilities are explained, but also the required qualifications, skills and personal qualities are set.

Establishing a way to transit from normal operations to an emergency state, will protect the organisation against unforeseen circumstances and provide a level of readiness in the case of a disaster. ERP is further expanded here.

All of the SMS parts must be documented in a controlled manner, based on the documentation control of the company as per the quality and compliance procedures. The documentation is the formal way to communicate the practices of the SMS and explaining the way of doing things.

The scope of an SMS should include all aspects of an organisation, including operations, dispatch, maintenance, cabin, ground handling, training, cargo handling etc.