Aviation Safety Management and Safety Management Systems (SMS)
A fundamental prerequisite of air carrier responsibility is the safe conduct of operations, which underpins the organisation’s reputation. Regulators and customers expect this area of organisational management to be of utmost importance to the company. Possessing the right tools and techniques is fundamental to effective management of safety in any organisation.
As state authorities have accepted that prescriptive regulations cannot hope to cover every aspect of complex, diverse and changing aviation activities, the concept of a self derived and unique safety management system (SMS) for each company has evolved. Now required by international regulations, SMS is an organisational plan intrinsic to the company’s ‘DNA’, that ensures safety and risk management are adequately addressed at every stage of activity and in a way that is best suited to the individual business. However, as a business manager it is sometimes difficult to see how the commercial needs of the organisation can be enhanced by the apparent constraints, and costs, of safety management, and this is where Gates Aviation can help.
Gates Aviation can offer experts in safety management, who have many years of experience in the industry and have helped aviation organisations to devise and implement SMS with minimal impact upon the core business, in a way that mitigates risk to maximise returns whilst meeting the local regulatory requirements. Our specialists will examine the central activities upon which the business depends, identify the inherent hazards, develop risk management strategies and collaborate in the creation of policies and procedures that will support these processes after they have left. Alternatively, Gates Aviation can provide an informed analysis of an existing SMS structure and offer advice on how it may be better tuned to the environment in which it is required to function, and how the fundamental aims of reduced cost and increased revenue can best be served through the intelligent management of risk.
Fundamental to SMS, and to the reputation and success of an air operator, is an operational air safety management programme, the building blocks of which are safety communication, safety assurance, risk management and incident investigation. These are specialist areas and Gates Aviation can offer the expertise required to seamlessly integrate the essentials into a new or existing operation, and if necessary train staff to manage them into the future. Most operators are bound by state mandatory occurrence reporting (MOR) requirements but this is at best a reactive safety management tool. A proactive and to some extent predictive approach may be achieved from a robust culture of near-miss and potential threat reporting, allowing risk to be managed before it manifests itself as an incident. Sound assurance of routine compliance with SOP can be achieved through a well managed flight data programme. Operational risks can be identified analysed and managed in a way that accepts the existence of risk in our business but not of unnecessary risk. Gates Aviation can help a business use these tools to their best commercial and operational advantage while safeguarding and even enhancing the corporate image.
Some organisations may find that whilst they have the will to establish these safety management processes, the resources are not always available in-house, without a disproportionate commitment in terms of personnel, equipment and cost. Gates Aviation can deliver all or any of these elements through assured and well managed outsourcing. In this way a business can incorporate precisely the level of operational safety management that is appropriate to its needs and its resources.
Gates Aviation is currently engaged in a dialogue with the aviation insurance industry in an effort to secure recognition of these safety management processes in the premiums charged to the operators who embrace them.
Gates Aviation can offer a comprehensive review of an organisation’s safety position, its policies and processes, in relation both to what is required by the local state regulations and to what constitutes best international industry practice. Armed with this information management can be assured that they are not at risk of censure from either the regulator or from public opinion, or make changes necessary to ensure that is the case. Regulation and perceived best practice sometimes change and these changes can be easy to miss when engrossed in business – Gates Aviation makes it its business to be informed.
When a new business opportunity presents itself, it is natural for management to focus upon the potential benefits, possibly at the expense of analysing the inherent risks. However, change must be managed with care and what appears on the surface to be benign may conceal serious threats to the organisation or the operation. Gates Aviation can provide ‘one-off’ or ongoing analysis of proposed change, whether it is a new destination, a new aircraft type or a new way of doing things, based upon years of industry experience and access to current operational data.
The goal of avoiding accidents and serious incidents is universal but the reality is that they do sometimes happen and an appropriate response is essential (see Emergency Response Planning). Following an incident there will be an external expectation that a full investigation will be completed and changes made based upon its findings – this will often be the responsibility of the state but their investigation allows the business little or no participation, and no control over the timing or outcome of the response. Gates Aviation can offer immediate access to experienced aviation safety investigators from the industry and from state bureaus, who will provide an informed and impartial investigation culminating in a succinct report aimed at mitigating the identified risks and preventing any repetition. This is supported by unlimited access to a fully equipped hardware and software analysis facility. Management can be assured that the investigation will not be clouded by internal politics and that the business can continue with as little interruption as possible. Once again, smaller organisations may find that they do not have personnel qualified or available to perform the investigation in sufficient depth, and Gates Aviation is on call to satisfy that requirement.
Following an accident or serious incident the relevant state authority will be empowered to investigate and publish its findings. These state investigations may be influenced by constraints in terms of time, local resources or even political pressure and it is possible that the conclusions may be unfairly damaging to the organisation. This can impact upon insurance premiums, liability, reputation and ultimately upon continued business. Gates Aviation has the expertise and resources to re-examine an incident and analyse the investigation and its findings, to determine whether the original conclusions were reasonable or not, and if not provide well founded arguments to support that position (see Expert Witnesses and Legal Services).
Personal Safety and Security in Overseas Locations
Companies and individuals operating trans-nationally confront unique and complex challenges. Executives and other staff need to understand their level of vulnerability in the context of the specific overseas locale. In a personal safety and security context, one size definitely does not fit all. Being well prepared prior to departure from base is now an increasingly important element of business travel and relocation.
Working with a leading commercial security organisation, we are able to offer advice on personal safety to companies and individuals travelling overseas. The greatest threat to an individual’s safety in an unfamiliar location is that individual’s unfamiliarity. Understanding when an individual is vulnerable is a significant part of staying safe.
We can provide a briefing on the location/s being visited which will include an overview of the country being visited and the cultural and socio-political overtones; for example, what you might expect to encounter on arrival at the airport; how to get safely from the airport to the city; what to be wary of in this location; where to stay; places to avoid; public holidays, and more. In short, everything an individual might need to make his or her stay in this location a safe and comfortable one.
Working with the organisation, we can prepare contingency plans for an organisational response to the need to remove company employees from locations subject to political/military, or civil, disturbances. It is essential, however, that such plans are prepared prior to the emergence of serious disturbances.
The global growth of extortion, kidnap and ransom events is alarming. Gates Aviation has experienced individuals who have written plans for such events. We also work with others who have specific expertise in this very specialised area of activity.
This is an often neglected area of plan preparation. An event which threatens the safety of the life of an employee is almost certain to affect the employee’s family and plans must be in place to attend to their needs. A successful corporate response to such an event will address the support needs of both family and employee during and after a major event. We are able to offer advice in this area, or work with the organisation to put such plans in place.