Definition of Safety
What is the definition of “Safety”?
According to ICAO, in the context of aviation, safety is the state in which the possibility of harm to persons or of property damage is reduced to, and maintained at or below an acceptable level, through a continuing process of hazard identification and safety risk management.
This means that we must accept a certain level of risk. But thanks to hazard identification and risk management, we ensure that we operate at the lower level of risk.
According to ICAO, a Safety Management System is a systematic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organisational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures.
The objective of a Safety Management System is to provide a structured management approach to control safety risks in operations.
An effective Safety Management System must consider the organisation’s specific structures and processes related to safety of operations.
The Deming Cycle
William Edwards Deming, is considered by many to be the father of modern quality control. He came up with a very simple paradigm, composed of 4 steps aiming at the continuous improvement of a system: Plan, Do, Check, Act.
The Deming Cycle is a four-step iterative technique, used to solve problems and to improve organisational processes. Initially used in quality, it has been extended to areas such as SMS, Project Management, Performance analysis and others.
The Deming Cycle is not the SMS itself, but, as we will see throughout this course, it applies to several key elements of the SMS, because of its continuous improvement characteristic. Any organisation has to set it’s objectives, these can be operational, safety related, and others. This corresponds to the “Plan” step in the Deming Cycle. The actual operations correspond to the “Do” step. On the “Check” step the organization will look into feedback, audit reports and occurrence reports, to see if the policies and processes in place remain relevant. If not, the organisation shall “Act” and update them as required. It is important to understand these 4 steps in order to efficiently apply it to different elements of the Safety Management System.
ICAO SMS Pillars
In Annex 19, ICAO has defined 4 pillars, or components for SMS:
- Safety Policy and Objectives
- Risk Management
- Safety Assurance, and
- Safety Promotion
But having these components is not sufficient to ensure a sound Safety Management System. All these pillars must coexist within a sound Corporate Safety Culture.
In the next lessons we will see in more detail how these components should be set up in your organisation, together with how to nurture a positive Safety Culture.