What are Safety Management Systems?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 January 2020
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Safety management systems (SMS) represent standards in the civil aviation industry to reduce the risk of accidents and implement proactive programs to save lives. These procedures have been adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization and accepted worldwide as safety requirements in maintenance, operations, pilot training, and air traffic control responsibilities. Safety management systems aim to manage risks and promote safe practices in the airline industry.

Aviation safety management systems collect data from employees, which are analyzed to determine if their observations pose a risk of accidents. The process includes assessing the effectiveness of current programs to comply with aviation law and predict events that might indicate risks. Safety management systems involve employees at all levels of the organization, from the top down. These programs stand apart from business decisions that focus on maximizing profits for the airline companies, but are given equal importance.

Technology complements the ability to address and manage risks. Modern aircraft are equipped with computerized devices that monitor various safety components. These improvements aid the aviation industry in identifying risks before they result in accidents. Safety management systems support the evolution from reacting to aircraft mishaps to proactive approaches that predict and address risks early.


These processes include inspection of aircraft and certification that they are safe and in good working order. Aviation personnel receive training in how to recognize and report any instances that might pose a safety risk to employees or passengers. Another facet of safety management systems includes education to promote safe practices and comply with the law. Safety goals are routinely reviewed and amended as part of SMS.

Transportation safety procedures are expanding to include airports certified to handle air carriers. The program includes runways, hangars, and the entire grounds of an airport. One component of SMS for airports identifies areas that need particular attention by pilots, such as intersections where accidents are more likely to occur. Air traffic controllers are an integral part of safety management systems at airports, and work closely with pilots to reduce the risk of accidents.

These standards mirror efforts that apply to other industries. Most regions employ safety standards for the workplace to prevent accidents and ensure employee safety. Environmental laws aim to protect citizens from hazards that harm human health and degrade resources. Safety policies also exist in food, drug, and pesticide manufacturing plants, and for air and water quality.


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