How much do you know about safety management systems (more commonly referred to as SMS)? If you’re like many HAI members, you probably don’t know as much as you should or even as much as you think you do, according to human factors expert and HAI Technical Committee member Richard Komarniski, also president of Grey Owl Aviation Consultants.
“The biggest thing I find talking to people in the industry is that they don’t understand what SMS is,” Komarniski told AIN. “They think it’s about having a safety officer or about facilities management or about the safety of workers, when it truly has to do with the safety of the organization.”
At the heart of SMS is a process that enables employees to report potential safety problems without fear of retribution–even if the employee is responsible for the safety problem.
“Improvement of safety is the goal,” Komarniski said. “[SMS] provides an open line of communication between employees and management to identify mistakes.”
At this year’s Heli-Expo, Komarniski is leading HAI’s charge to inform members about the importance of SMS and to prod operators, MRO providers and companies in almost all other segments of the industry to implement SMS programs of their own. On Saturday he led a full-day seminar about SMS for a sold-out audience (30 HAI members) and explained how an effective SMS program can identify and correct problems that could contribute to inefficient operations and accidents.
“Doctors can practice medicine, attorneys can practice law, but we can’t practice aviation,” Komarniski told attendees, stressing that SMS helps ensure tasks are handled properly every time.
Spurred by growing regulatory requirements in Europe and Canada, more companies are adopting SMS programs. Although such requirements are not expected in the U.S. until at least 2014, HAI and its sister organization, the International Helicopter Safety Team, recommend implementing SMS programs now. To help achieve this goal, here at Heli-Expo HAI is introducing a new DVD about SMS, available at the organization’s booth (No. 2401). The DVD examines SMS and the programs instituted by companies such as Bristow Group, Alpine Helicopters and Skyline Helicopters, and the resulting benefits.
“SMS works if it’s implemented properly,” Komarniski said. “Where you really see the benefits is from being proactive and listening to employees.”