Safety Management System Software

What is a Safety Management System?

The purpose of safety management systems is to implement formal processes to ensure the highest level of safety as practically possible. Formally managing safety has become a modern competitive advantage for many aviation industry segments, including:

  • Airlines;
  • Airports;
  • Aviation maintenance providers (AMOs and MROs);
  • Fixed based operators (FBOs);
  • Air traffic control (ATC);
  • Aviation medical transport providers;
  • On-demand charter operators; and
  • Civil aviation authorities.

safety management system software for airlines and airports

Safety management systems focus on broad array of elements bound together in:

  • Policies and procedures;
  • Risk management procedures;
  • Safety assurance monitoring; 
  • Safety training for organizational employees; and
  • Safety communication to reinforce safety concepts.

The components of safety management systems are similar to other very familiar management systems, including

  • Environmental management systems;
  • Quality management systems; and
  • Information security management systems.

Benefits of Safety Management Systems

Besides providing safer operations for employees and customers, the benefits of safety management systems include:

  • More efficient use of limited financial and human resources;
  • Improved risk management strategies based on industry best practices;
  • Increased employee job satisfaction and enhanced morale; and
  • Cost savings from accident prevention.

Major Activities of Safety Management Systems at Airlines & Airports

Effective safety management systems require support of top management that shapes the safety culture. Airlines and airports achieve their SMS objectives from the bottom up by these activities:

  • Stakeholders reporting hazards, accidents, incidents and irregularities;
  • Risk management that includes corrective preventive action management;
  • Analysis of risk;
  • SMS auditing to ensure continuous improvement;
  • Safety training, such as using aviation safety article training libraries; and
  • Safety communications.

Why Use Software in Safety Management Systems

Sophisticated management systems have many moving parts. It is easy to overlook or neglect certain areas of a safety management system when there are not automated technologies to assure management that the safety management system is functioning properly. For example, in an aviation safety management system based on the ICAO four pillars or components, considerable amounts of documentation must be generated and regularly reviewed, such as:

  • Document and records management;
  • Regulatory SMS requirements ;
  • Framework, scope and integration;
  • Safety policies and procedures;
  • Safety goals and objectives ;
  • Accountabilities of key safety personnel ;
  • Voluntary hazard reporting system;
  • Incident reporting and investigation procedures;
  • Hazard identification and risk assessment processes;
  • Safety performance indicators;
  • Safety training and communication;
  • Continuous improvement;
  • SMS auditing procedures and results;
  • Management of change; and
  • Emergency response planning;
airlines and airports are required to implement safety management system software solutions to comply with ICAO, FAA, EASA requirements

As one can see, there are many requirements if an airline or airport wishes to comply with regulatory requirements. Because of this, one can see that safety management system software is the wisest choice.

Many airlines and airports may attempt to manage their safety system using:

  • Paper;
  • Home-grown safety databases;
  • Microsoft Office products; and
  • Tons of hard work.

The problems arising from using the above safety tools is that there are no uniform standards, no best practices followed consistently. Furthermore, when a safety manager leaves the company, much of the company safety knowledge also leaves. More than once a safety manager has left a company with the entire safety program on his laptop.

Because of this, the best safety management system software is maintained in a central company database. Best practices dictate that the safety management database is backed up regularly and the backups stored in at least two geographically distinct locations.

Architecture for Best in Class Safety Management System Software

If your safety management program is being run on an MS Access database, you will need to upgrade your system if your company is larger than 20 employees. MS Access databases are not designed as enterprise grade databases. Furthermore, connecting a Web application to an MS Access database is not recommended when many employees are accessing the same resources.

If you are building safety management system software for your airline or airport, we recommend starting with an enterprise grade database, such as:

Once you have decided upon an enterprise grade database, the next decision is which Web framework you wish to target. Most professional web applications at airlines and airports run on Microsoft Web servers, called IIS or "Internet Information Services." Second and third options may include Wamp servers for PHP application or Apache servers for Java applications.

Build or Buy Safety Management System Software?

Unless you have available software engineers, you are better off purchasing safety management system software packages. Aviation service providers can easily spend two million USD on the development of their airline or airport safety management system software. Even if you do have available software engineers, you will have to ensure you have subject matter experts ready to provide design guidance. Subject matter experts can become more expensive than the software engineers building and testing the safety software.

In most cases, airlines and airports benefit from purchasing commercial off the shelf (COTS) safety software. Most safety software products may be acquired on a subscription bases at very reasonable rates compared to the costs of building safety software in-house.

Cloud Based Safety Management System Software vs Client Server Based

Since 2010, the Internet has become very stable in most parts of the world. Cloud based software has become more acceptable as organizations realize that external safety software professionals can provide better services than their in-house IT staff. Airlines and airports can focus on delivering services and leave IT security and safety management software delivery to external safety management system software providers.

There are times when aviation service providers should purchase and install COTS safety management software on their servers. For example, when there are:

  • Business continuity concerns regarding the software provider;
  • Security concerns over safety related data; or
  • Reliable Internet concerns.

Safety Management System Software Providers

Over the past ten years, there have been many software providers that have entered into the aviation SMS software market. Some of these software companies started their risk management software from scratch, while others retrofitted existing safety or environmental solutions.

One problem with refitting existing solutions is that they often don't fit in well with airlines and airports' business processes. Intelex and ETQ are prime examples of this strategy. These companies provide safety, quality and environmental system solutions to other industries, such as:

  • Mining;
  • Automotive;
  • Food and beverage;
  • Manufacturing; and
  • Mining.

Other software providers extended existing solutions and bolted on additional modules to comply with ICAO's regulatory requirements. An example of an extended safety management system software package is AQD, which does a great job with auditing, but lacks depth with other safety management requirements.