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Safety Management Systems - A History for Part 139 Airports

Thu Jan 22 2015

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Safety is an ever-important part of the modern world due to our reliance on technology, machinery and other infrastructure built into our cities and towns – This is no different for the aviation industry, given the possible dangers of working with large machinery, many people, and upkeep of various systems.

This is where the International Civil Aviation Organization comes in. They proposed the idea of a required Safety Management System that airport operators must put into action. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initiated this as a pilot study in May of 2010 for Part 139 certified airports, and it has been worked on since.

The Safety Management System (SMS) is, at its center, a collection of methods and strategies to constantly improve and maintain safety measures in airports and airlines across the United States.

There are four parts that make up a safety management system: Safety Policy, Safety Risk Management, Safety Assurance and Safety Promotion. Safety Policy is the foundation for the system, outlining the methods and tools necessary to reach safety goals and outlines management responsibility and accountability.

Safety Risk Management is the heart of SMS. It is a set of rules and processes that are used to identify hazards before they become an issue, digest safety risks, and create strategies to keep dangers to a manageable low.

Safety Assurance is the process used to keep meeting safety standards and objectives, as well as constantly improving general safety. This encompasses everything from information gathering and analysis to putting into action preventative and corrective measures for when safety goals are not met.

The final, all-encompassing component of SMS is Safety Promotion. This is what fosters the environment in which safety can be achieved, and is necessary to keep the objectives and goals managed. Promoting a positive safety culture allows employees to understand the SMS in place, communicate effectively, competently manage their responsibilities, continuous training, and share information well.

The idea of a required safety management system first came into being in 2006, proposed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO Annex 6, Part 1 directed all member states from January of 2009 and onward to have operators implement a safety management system.

Originally, SMS requirements were aimed at Part 121 Air Carriers. But in May of 2010, the FAA began a process to bring Part 139 airports under the same requirements for their airfield environments.

Fourteen airports participated in the pilot study, and all 14 applied for the Airport Improvement Program assistance, receiving a range of funds from $78,000 to $500,000.

Rulemaking by the FAA for Airport SMS is currently in the Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) stage, meaning the rulemaking is still open to comments. The projected date for it to go to OMB is December 15, 2014, and is aimed to go through OMB Clearance by March 15, 2015. The end of the comment period is now aimed for May 20, 2015.

Time will tell what changes will be made for Part 139 Airports in regards to SMS requirements, and prepared airports will be a step ahead of the rest.

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