Safety Management Systems (SMS)

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requires that all aerodromes have a Safety Management System (SMS) in place within their organizations. This section of the Global Safety Network provides key information on developing and implementing an SMS at an aerodrome.

Safety Management Systems (SMS)

An SMS is made up of five main parts; SMS Elements, SMS Development, SMS Implementation, Risk Assessments, SMS Resources LEAD, PLAN, DO, CHECK, REVIEW.

The model shown below gives an overview of a Safety Management System (SMS) - use the navigation at the end of the page to find more information on specific sections of the SMS:

SMS Elements:
Airport Safety Committee

An Airport Safety Committee should be hosted by the aerodrome periodically to review safety in the airside areas. The Committee should consist of different aerodrome divisions, airlines, handling agents, aircraft catering companies, aircraft cleaning companies, refuelling companies, ATC, government agencies, emergency response services – ideally all large organisations that operate in airside areas.

The Terms of Reference for an Airport Safety Committee should include:

  • Promotion of safety awareness through training, licensing and the publication of safety bulletins
  • Establishment and discussion of local safety procedures and guidelines
  • Accident, incident and near-miss reporting and investigation, subsequent data analysis and dissemination of trends, common causes etc
  • Generation and evaluation of safety suggestions
  • Preparation of regular joint safety campaigns
  • Discussion of forthcoming airside works programme

The meeting should be held in a relaxed and open atmosphere where discussion and sharing are promoted so as to maximise the learning and development of ideas to improve safety. It is suggested meetings are held either monthly or quarterly. Depending upon the size of operation of the aerodrome, the functions responsible for safety could be covered under an Airport Safety Committee or be separated into a Runway Safety Team and an Apron Safety Committee.

Aerodrome Safety Management Systems:
SMS Development

SMS Development

A basic SMS has four key elements - PLAN, DO, CHECK, REVIEW. This section gives an overview of each section of an SMS.

PLAN for Airport Safety – Get organised

  • Understand existing legislative, best industry practice and company requirements • Identify safety objectives
  • Establish contingency plans and business recovery plans
  • Confirm airside procedures are documented and up to date for all activities
  • Check all risk assessments are complete next back

DO Airport Safety

  • Initial training and testing
  • Competencies and refresher training processes in place
  • Infrastructure and equipment checks being carried out
  • Staff meetings and consultation processes talk about safety
  • Reporting of all accidents, incidents and near-misses in place
  • Investigation and trend analysis of accidents, incidents and near-misses takes place
  • Deficiency reporting process in place
  • Behavioural reporting in place
  • Record keeping next back :

CHECK Airport Safety

  • Senior management airside audits or inspections occur regularly
  • Audits of trainers and trainees occur – including any third parties
  • Different levels of checks take place for all airside areas
  • Risk assessments validation Identify deficiency trends and accident, incident and near-miss trends
  • Measure safety performance next back

REVIEW Airport Safety

  • Identify root causes of accidents, incidents and near-misses
  • Ensure preventative actions are taken and documented
  • Share safety information with airside community
  • Work with others to identify and understand best industry practice
  • Understand regulator’s future requirements in good time
  • Establish future safety objectives

Aerodrome Safety Management Systems:

The responsibility for the implementation of an SMS lies with all line managers and employees. Organisations may also have a specifically designated safety manager who monitors and assists in the implementation and audits compliance.

The successful implementation of an SMS at an aerodrome will result in the suitable and adequate management and delivery of safety to both people and aircraft in a shared workplace environment. Once implemented, an SMS will ensure legal compliance; allow aerodromes to retain their operating licence; improve business performance as well as safety levels and is considered proactive not reactive.

Personnel should be adequately trained in all tasks they can reasonably be expected to carry out and should remain proficient at these tasks. Staff should demonstrate their continuing ability to carry out the tasks required of them and this should be recorded for the term of employment by the organisation

Aerodrome Safety Management Systems:
Risk Assessments

Risk assessments allow aerodrome operators to develop an objective assessment of the risk involved with a specific activity. Risk assessments should be conducted for every task to be carried out by staff and can also be carried out on a higher level of the operational business, for example concerning bird strikes or runway incursions. The 5 simple steps to conducting a risk assessment are:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who may be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide whether the existing precautions are adequate or whether more should be done
  4. Record the findings
  5. Review the assessment and revise if necessary

The hazards need to be identified and the probability of them occurring should be tabulated in a grid – an example of a risk assessment grid is shown below:

SMS risk assessment grid

Level 1 Green
No further action required beyond measures currently in place.

Level 2 Amber
The current residual risk requires a review of available options and possible action.

Level 3 Red
The current residual risk requires further action to reduce it.

Once the grid has been completed, the hazards with highest probability and severe consequences (located in the red squares) can easily be identified. These are generally the ones that need to be addressed first. The next step is to develop a plan for remedial action to eliminate or reduce the risk. In some cases, when there is already a solution in place, the development of additional control measures can be the best way to reduce and manage the risk.

Aerodrome Safety Management Systems:

There are many resources for information on Safety Management Systems. Several airports have developed SMS manuals that can be provided to other airports at a small cost, otherwise ICAO has developed a Safety Management Systems Manual that can be purchased from the ICAO website.

ACI also provides information on SMS in its Airside Safety Handbook that is available for purchase from the ACI Publications Department.

For more information please contact