safety management systems (SMS)

​So what's all the fuss about SMS? Professional aviation organizations generally have an established safety system that they operate under, whether they are in the business of providing flight operations, maintenance, ground services, training or building aircraft and components. Safety systems generally evolved from specific regulatory requirements (compliance) that addressed the minimum necessary safety standards required to achieve and maintain your operating certificate (if you have one).


What's different about SMS is the formal framework it provides that is consistently used in aviation, worldwide. The framework is based on the Standards and Recommended Practices prescribed in ICAO Annex 19, Safety Management Systems. You will find some slight variations from country-to-country, around the world, but for the most part, the structure and content is the same.


Four Components of an SMS (or Five!)

Safety management systems in aviation are generally considered to have four key components, including (ICAO terminology):

  • Safety Policy & Objectives;
  • Safety Risk Management;
  • Safety Assurance; and
  • Safety Promotion.

If you are subject to U.S. regulations (14 CFR Part 5), you will find the FAA expanded the ICAO definition of an SMS into five components, specifically breaking out:

  • SMS Documentation and Recordkeeping


Safety Policy & Objectives

In ICAO terms, the Safety Policy and Objects consists of:

  • Management commitment and responsibility;
  •  Safety accountabilities;
  • Appointment of key safety personnel;
  • Coordination of Emergency Response Planning; and
  • SMS documentation.

In simple terms, your Safety Policy and Objectives defines your commitment to, and responsibility for, safety in your organization. It defines who is accountable for your SMS, identifies your key safety personnel and documents your safety system. In many ways, this is the who, what, where, when, why and how of your SMS.


AeroDirections can assist you in developing your Safety Policy, measurable safety goals and objectives, safety performance indicators, standard operating procedures and other safety documentation.


Safety Risk Management

In ICAO terms, Safety Risk Management consists of:

  • Hazard identification; and
  • Safety risk assessment and mitigation

Safety Risk Management is where you will identify and analyze the hazards that exist in your business, assess the risks associated with these hazards and find ways to control the risks so that the hazards don't result in unacceptable outcomes like accidents, incidents and injuries. Safety Risk Management really represents the design of your business from a safety risk standpoint, representing how your safety system is intended to prevent undesirable outcomes.


AeroDirections specializes in safety risk analysis using the BowTie method. BowTies provide a highly visual and collaborative way to analyze and document your operational hazards, the threats that can cause hazards to materialize into undesirable consequences, and most importantly, the risk controls necessary to reduce the likelihood of experiencing these consequences as well as their potential severity.


Safety Assurance

In ICAO terms, Safety Assurance consists of:

  • Safety performance monitoring and measurement;
  • The management of change; and
  • Continuous improvement of the SMS.

Safety Assurance is where you continuously monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your SMS. This is done through your hazard, near-miss, incident and accident reporting programs as well as the inspections and audits of your operational safety processes. Through Safety Assurance, you also proactively manage changes in the way you do business, continuously watching for new hazards or weaknesses in your safety risk controls. When new hazards, gaps or changes are identified, you return to your Safety Risk Management process to analyze, assess and control the risks. Safety Assurance is all about understanding how well your safety system is performing.


AeroDirections can assist in numerous ways with your Safety Assurance processes. Our IS-BAO audits and gap assessments are proactive ways of evaluating your safety system. Additionally, we can implement tools and processes to streamline the collection and evaluation of hazard, near-miss, incident and accident reports. We have worked with dozens of aviation operations ranging from air carriers to corporate operators, MROs, ground service providers and aircraft and component manufacturers implementing the Q-Pulse Risk, Safety and Quality Management system to streamline reporting, management and analyzing safety information.


Safety Promotion

In ICAO terms, Safety Promotion consists of:

  • Training and education; and
  • Safety Communications

Your SMS will only be as effective as your team allows it to be. Adoption of the SMS begins with training and communication but relies on the safety culture of your organization to be effective. Safety promotion is about equipping, engaging and encouraging active participation and cultural alignment of the SMS within your business.


AeroDirections has provided SMS training to over 800 aviation personnel over the last several years. This training has been custom tailored to the individual organizations, their business and their culture and delivered to individuals ranging from the CEO and executive staff of a multi-billion dollar aviation services company to general managers and line personnel in air carriers, MROs and manufacturers. We are continually building our portfolio of training capabilities and currently offer the following training classes:

  • SMS for Leaders;
  • SMS for Operations;
  • Aviation Auditing for Quality and Safety;
  • Root Cause Analysis; and
  • BowTie Risk Management.

Check out our Events section for upcoming offerings.

Integrated Aviation Management Systems

RISK, Safety, Quality and compliance