When Probability and Possibility Becomes Interchangeable
A goal without a plan is just a fantasy of random achievements.
When probability and possibility become interchangeable is when an enterprise has developed an SMS theme with elements of failures. There is an ongoing SMS theme question that an enterprise, being an airline or airport must be able to answer to allow for operations to operate within the intent of the SMS. Without comprehending the basic “Why” of SMS, the foundation for an enterprise to actively achieve safety-improvement goals is not established. An enterprise without an active goal achievement plan is an open door for goal-wishes and random goal achievement without directions. The basic SMS question is “Why does the Global Aviation Industry, being Airlines or Airports, need a Safety Management System (SMS) today, when they were safe yesterday without an SMS?”
When approaching SMS as safety only, there is a biased view of the question which restricts the comprehension of the answer. The answer is not in safety, but in the processes. Operators are required by regulations to assign the title of Accountable Executive (AE), SMS Manager or QA Manager to personnel who are identified by the org-chart, which eliminates the opportunity to assign personnel who comprehend the SMS.
Assigning by org-chart and not by technical skills or comprehension is to expect that someone can obtain their SMS skills by given a title within the SMS system. The only SMS skill required for developing a corrective action plan is a title. In addition, they convene with other unskilled personnel with titles to implement these CAPs. Holding the title as the AE and having full authority of the SMS does not make that person an expert on SMS.
When the Regulator delivers the findings to an enterprise, the AE immediately folds since they don’t have the skills or comprehension to support and backup their own SMS actions and processes. Upon notification of the finding there are no reasons for the AE not to accept or reject the findings with a clear explanation and in addition, provide both a short-term CAP and long-term CAP to the regulator. The AE profession is one of the few professions where a title is the governing qualifications for decision-making in safety critical areas, including regulatory requirements for an unskilled person to make these decisions.
SMS is set up for failure by the regulatory AE qualifications requirements.
Probability and possibility are incorrectly applied to the SMS as being interchangeable within a safety management system. When applied in a risk assessment, the possibility is applied to the exposure element as a virtual exposure, or possible exposure and always applicable. There is an opinion among SMS personnel that there is always a possibility for an engine failure after takeoff since the flight crew conducts a pre-takeoff briefing and includes in the briefing the procedure in the event of an engine failure. That this possibility exist is a true statement, since possibilities are virtual, or fantasy events without facts. In addition, there is conventional wisdom among enterprises and regulators that this possibility must be converted into exposure in a risk assessment. Without SMS comprehension the bar becomes to “error on the side of safety” and possibility is therefore applied interchangeable with probability. This is another avenue for SMS to becomes its worst enemy and setting itself up for failure. There is a hazard within the regulatory system itself when there are no requirements for the AE to comprehend SMS communication.