Monday, October 19, 2020

SMS Works

 SMS Works

By Catalina9

COVID19 affected air travel and airport operations to a degree never seen before. Major airports went down to 10% of normal movements and the airlines parked thousands of airplanes at these same airports. COVID19 was a disaster for the aviation industry with little or no hope to recover back to 2019 levels for several years. 

An effective Safety Management System (SMS) could not have prevented this disastrous outcome and would not have made one difference for safety in operations. However, what any airport or airline would have in place with an effective SMS, is a recovery tool unlike any other tool. 

A positive attitude is a prerequisite for recovery in aviation.
When a hazard is discovered for the very first time, or a special cause incident occurs for the very first time, three corrective action plan (CAP) options are available. Option one is the extreme to cease operations, or the other extreme to do nothing. The CAP solution when arriving at the fork-in-the-road and holding on to a previously unidentified hazard, is not to develop a CAP to attack the hazard, but it is of vital importance to turn in the direction of least residual risk (leftover hazards) and the least substitute risks (new hazards). When a new hazard is introduced into the SMS system and this is a hazard without prior known CAPs it is impossible to design a CAP that will resolve the risks. The risk has become an inherent risk that needs to be mitigated. 

A couple of examples of a the introduction of a new hazard is the Hudson River landing, where the probability of an all-engine failure was considered a likelihood to be inconceivable and times between intervals to be imaginary, theoretical, virtual, or fictional. Another accident example is MH370 incident where it also was inconceivable that an airliner could just vanish into thin air. When COVID19 hit airports and airlines with an SMS contingency plan for recovery executed their plan and became the leaders of recovery at airport and airlines. A recovery does not imply getting back to 2019 levels, but to recover from a prior unknown hazard. No one could ever imagine that a virus could prevent 3-4 billion passengers to travel. In 2019 the global airline industry reached over 4.54 billion people. Not long-ago IATA published an article that 1.2 billion people had travelled the first nine months of the year, or about 25% of 2019 levels. 

Airlines and airport took it upon themselves at an early stage of the hazard identification to apply the principle of SMS and ensure that customer service became their number one priority. Airlines and airports leaders understood that the public expected them to make changes and that they needed changes that the travelling public would accept as their hazard protection. 

Their first step was to design and implement a Safety Policy. In general, this policy stated that only COVID19-free passengers could board an aircraft for travel. Not only did they distribute their policy to all personnel, but they also expected the policy to be adhered to by the travelling public, airport operators, check-in agents and flight crew. Airports installed sanitizing gates and airlines sanitized each aircraft prior to boarding new passengers. In addition, check-in agents checked all traveller’s health condition prior to boarding. The first SMS step was completed, which was a short-term corrective action to separate data into two categories. 

The second step was to implement a non-punitive reporting policy. Anyone who observed a hazard, i.e. that a person might be affected by the COVID19 virus was encouraged to report it without fear of repercussion, or for fear of being kicked-off the flight. The non-punitive reporting policy became the second level of safety to separate data into the correct category. The beauty of the non-punitive reporting policy is that there is no requirement for the person reporting to have all the facts or to provide a solution, but to report what in their mind is a hazard. It’s for the experts, SMS Manger or Director of Safety in an organization to establish the validity of the claim. 

The third step was to establish definite guidelines and roles and responsibility for all personnel. This includes what actions to take and the reporting hierarchy. The crucial test for the airline industry had become to ensure that the same approach was applied on all seven continents: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. Applying the CAP with regional differences was expected to cause an unstable recovery. 

The fourth step was to communicate to the travelling public and to both internal and external organizations. The communication process needed to be simple and accessible, and social media became the main preference for communication source. Airlines and airports conducted surveys to learn how the travelling public felt about departure, or arrival delays. 

I am the Confidential Advisor to the AE.
The fifth step was safety planning for travelers to maintain a confidence level that air travel is protecting them from the hazard. Goals and objectives were established and included spacing passengers seating and design seat separators. Face masks were also required during the flight to contain any large droplets within a personal space. Airlines were already equipped with a comprehensive air filtering system as an additional layer to ensure customer satisfaction. 

comprehensive air filtering system as an additional layer to ensure customer satisfaction. 

Step six was performance measurements. Just as passenger’s heath conditions data were documented upon boarding, data was also collected upon deplaning. This data was entered into a hazard registry, analyzed, and compared to pre-boarding screening. 

Step seven was to review all data for effectiveness. IATA article published that 1.2 billion people had travelled by air the first 9 months of 2020. Out of the 1.2 billion travelers 44 cases were contributed inflight COVID-19 transmission, which is five COVID19 transmission per month. Let’s say that an average airliner seats 150 passengers. For 150 passengers to reach 1.2 billion travelers, they would be required to travel 8,000,000 trips. Out of these 8 million trips, 44 passengers would be infected. One person would have to travel 181,818 trips in 9 months to reach a high probability level to be one of these 44 receiving an in-flight transmission of COVID19. 

It is impossible to see what the future holds. It is impossible to state that without applying CAPs, mitigations, and SMS principles more than 44 cases would have occurred during air travel. However, when comparing to the general population of 7.8 billion people worldwide and 40,369,270 cases; this is about 1 of every 200 being infected by COVID19. If applying the same 1:200 ratio to the air-travelling public, 6,217,616 would have been infected. 

Based on this data form the World Health Organization and the International Air Transport Association, a Safety Management System is the profit generator, the effective business tool, and the superior tool in customer satisfaction. 

Recovery in aviation and recovery at airports is to dedicate your Amazing Airport or Airline to continuous improvements. Train your SMS to increase your revenue one-tenth of one percent daily. This amounts to one half of one percent more productive each week, or two percent each month and 26% increased revenue each year. 


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Qualities Of Your Winning SMS Team

 Qualities Of Your Winning SMS Team

By Catalina9

Building your winning Safety Management Team (SMS) team is more important today than it ever was before. SMS is no longer just another safety program but has become the single most important system for departmental oversight and safety in operations. Organizational processes and operational culture do not change within departments but are laterally equal throughout any department. An organizational culture are the faces of their Board Members, Owners, and CEO which does not change between departments. Putting on a different hat might work when taking on different positions in an enterprise, but the magic hat does not move a business culture between positions. There is only one organizational hat when it comes to the organizational structure, and that hat given to everyone by the CEO. 

An effective Safety Management System is a businesslike approach to safety. A businesslike approach to any enterprises is applied throughout the business and not just to selective areas of operations, one person, or one department. A key component of the SMS is to operate with a Just Culture, which is different than the non-punitive reporting culture. SMS regulations require that both airlines and airports comply with their safety policy, that they operate with processes for goal setting and goal achievement; processes identification of hazards, including defining safety critical areas and safety critical functions in the hazard registry, a process for reporting of incidents and accidents; a process for training and competency; a document design of their SMS; a quality assurance program; processes for SMS audits and reviews; and a process for any additional requirements, which includes all airport or airline operations within the enterprise.  

The SMS team are the Accountable Executive, Flight Operations, Maintenance, or if an airport the Airport General Manager and Airside Supervisor, the SMS Management and Quality Assurance Management. A winning SMS team feel positive about themselves to the degree they feel they are in control of their own destiny. In addition, a winning SMS team expects their decisions to affect processes and impact operations. They also understand that the outcome of their decisions may not always be what they had expected or planned for. An effective and winning SMS team works with a 95% confidence level to leave room for safety improvements. A winning SMS team is a happy team and cannot wait to move on with their next challenge. 

The compliance gap is the gap between the action itself and the end result.

There is a regulatory compliance gap when the regulator is enforcing regulatory compliance at a tempo faster than what an enterprise can comprehend. This does not imply that an enterprise should accept non-compliance with the regulations, but that the regulations are based on a static-state operations and there is a lag, or a compliance gap, between the first movement and the compliance analysis. This compliance gap remains constant throughout any process and if observed, or inspected prior to the data analysis, it will generate a finding. When a third-party is imposing operational changes, such as a consultant, customer or the regulator, their CAP may not be effective if they do not count for the compliance gap. The same concept is also true for the Accountable Executive, who in a business-like environment may make spontaneous decisions. When spontaneous decisions are made in a business environment, they may be fatal to the business itself. The same principle is applicable to a Safety Management System where there are no good reasons to make uninformed, or spontaneous decisions. An effective SMS is a businesslike approach to safety and should be the guidance and template for all other business decisions. The winning team of a Safety Management System is the hub, rather than the umbrella of an enterprise.

If the SMS is the umbrella of all operational systems, it becomes a tool that covers or protects from above. When applied to the SMS system, the umbrella is an overarching system encompassing all other systems within the organization. If a department or person under the umbrella assigned bias responsibilities, authorities, or strength, that authority may skew the SMS in a bias direction or cause an undetectable drift away from expected safety results. 

An enterprise may look at its SMS as an umbrella or a wheel. If the SMS is under an umbrella, the umbrella protects from above and the strength of the SMS is in the person carrying the umbrella, or the Accountable Executive. When the SMS is under an umbrella there is little or no room for changes, except for staying within the protection of the umbrella itself. When looking at the SMS as being under an umbrella, the safe spot in the SMS is where the Accountable Executive is with safest travel to blindly follow their directions. 

A wheel in harmony may endure approaching hazards or obstructions.

If an SMS is built as a wheel, the SMS may travel in any direction where their data points to. A wheel is built up by a hub, spokes, and a protective surface. The hub and spokes of the wheel is the strength of the wheel, or the SMS, while the protective surface, or rubber (wood or steel in the old days) is what carries the load of the SMS. However, the protective surface is dependent on a strong hub with strong spokes to function. 

An enterprise operating under an umbrella becomes a place where departments and personnel will play it safe without venture outside of the protection of the Accountable Executive. Bureaucratic organizations function well under an umbrella and within the safe spot of their leader. Safety may be their priority, but it is not paramount within such an organizational structure. Short term fixes, putting out fires or ensuring that the correct checkboxes are filled becomes their primary tasks. It is irrelevant if this is a large conglomerate of an organization, or a simple small enterprise. In this type of organization, it’s easier to reject suggestions for improvements and remain at status quo even if there is a high probability of a disaster at the next fork in the road.  

An enterprise operating as a wheel becomes a place where departments and personnel must make decisions to steer the wheel out of harms way. The Accountable Executive, as the hub, has ensured that the spokes are trained and are knowledgeable within their area of expertise to maintain a strength for the wheel to carry. When looking at the SMS as a wheel, the Accountable Executive is a part of the total solution.  Safety may also be their priority but is also paramount to the strength of their organizational structure. Short term fixes, putting out fires or ensuring that the correct checkboxes are filled in are still required tasks, but their primary task is to steer the wheel in the safest direction while arriving at the fork in the road. The direction this SMS takes is the calculated safest direction, with a 95% confidence level that the best option was selected. While an umbrella-organization feel their highest performance level is best at status quo, a wheel-organization preforms best while maintaining alertness for changes and makes ongoing decisions to ensure the safest path of travel. In this type of organization there is forward-looking accountability within a coherent system. 

Members of a winning SMS team has learned to set aside emotions and personal differences. They are looking at every hazard as a challenge to conquer and overcome. Members of a winning SMS team embraces changes and see a new opportunity in every difficulty. However, a superior behavior of a person within a Winning SMS Team is their individual ability to accept conclusions and move forward towards the next fork in the road. 


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