Since introducing a safety management system (SMS) program for helicopter operator members last year, HAI has added another item to its VTOL safety tool chest: an SMS program for aircraft maintenance. The new benefit is the result of a partnership between HAI and the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) to provide the latter’s maintenance SMS program to HAI members at no cost.

Not in and of itself a safety program, an SMS is a valuable management tool designed to support an aviation business’s overall safety program. It’s also an industry best practice to help you identify, communicate, and achieve your operation’s safety objectives.

Specifically, as this month’s Spotlight on Safety video and poster illustrate, an SMS is a vital tool engineered to:

  • Make your business better
  • Continually improve your focus
  • Help you achieve your safety objectives.

Aligned with Company Objectives
Clearly, an SMS isn’t a book that sits on a shelf only to pull out when auditors come to call. A great way to think about it is to compare the requirements of an SMS, whether for maintainers or operators, with some of the other goals and objectives of an aviation business: those concerning production, finances, and quality. Let’s consider which tools you might use to achieve business goals in those three areas.

In production, you might use a work-order system, which, based on the size and scope of your maintenance business, might be a robust, fully integrated system that combines maintenance, logistics, and staffing. Or, for a small maintenance operation, it might be a basic, paper system. It makes sense for you to choose the system that best suits your operation.

Similarly, sound financial goals are typically managed via an annual budget and an accounting system that tracks income and expenses. Many budgets contain monthly, quarterly, and semiannual measurements to ensure the business is on the correct trajectory to achieve its annual goals. If, for some reason, the measures don’t meet expectations, the system enables you to immediately recognize the deficiencies and make appropriate adjustments.

A quality management system helps ensure that a business meets its customers’ expectations. It sets the tone for the actions of the employees, providing the tools, equipment, data, and materials they need to uphold the organization’s standards. A quality management system also mandates establishing a culture that encourages even the newest employees to report any deficiencies they see.

The tools for helping a business meet its production, financial, and quality goals have been developed over decades of use. An SMS follows the same pathway to help your business achieve its safety goals and objectives.

Communication Is Key
You can’t exist in aviation without a safety mindset. But given the daily demands of management, we don’t always communicate that mindset and the standards underlying it. An SMS can help a business define and communicate its safety standards.

Just as in quality management, an SMS encourages an employee who sees a safety issue to report it immediately. After all, the people conducting the maintenance work are significantly more likely to detect a safety problem than would management or a scheduled audit. An SMS supports the popular precept, “If you see something, say something.”

Equally as important as problem detection and communication is follow-through. Upon learning about a potentially hazardous situation, management must acknowledge the problem, investigate its cause, determine a solution(s), and then inform the reporting individual of the action taken to correct the matter.

A well-functioning business sets its production, financial, and quality management goals using tools that support industry best practices. HAI’s new Maintenance SMS Program is no different: it provides you with the tools you need to optimize the overall performance and safety of your aircraft maintenance business.

Through the program with the AEA, small-business members of HAI will attend a virtual or in-person training session that provides instruction on using the Maintenance SMS Program. When members apply the program at their facilities and operations, the AEA can assume the role of director of safety to facilitate program implementation as needed, working with the coordinator or representative at each location.

Ric Peri

Ric Peri

A US Coast Guard veteran, Ric Peri has more than 45 years in aviation maintenance as a mechanic, instructor, writer, consultant, and auditor. As VP of government and industry affairs with the Aircraft Electronics Association, Ric advocates for the avionics and maintenance industries before aviation authorities worldwide.