FAA Prepares For Safety Management System

Sidney Vianna

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Aviation Week said:
FAA is targeting a June 30 release of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) laying the groundwork for requiring aviation operators and businesses to implement a Safety Management System (SMS).
FAA last month completed the initial ANPRM and sent it for Dept. of Transportation review. The ANPRM also must undergo Office of Management and Budget review.
Don Arendt, manager of FAA's Flight Standards SMS Program Office, called the ANPRM "basically a fishing expedition," a survey that seeks industry input on requiring SMS. The ANPRM is the first step toward a more forward rulemaking that would mandate SMS.
FAA defines SMS as "a management system for integrating safety activities into normal day-to-day business practices." SMS is designed to help organizations integrate a systematic risk-based and process-oriented approach to managing safety. "The FAA is considering SMS rulemaking to further enhance the practice of managing safety and oversight of that management," the agency said. "Such an approach stresses not only compliance with technical standards, but increases emphasis on those management systems."
Current regulations impose technical standards for industry products and services, the agency said. "However, they do not address the framework within which the safety of those products and services are to be managed. SMS requires a proactive approach to discovering and correcting problems before they exhibit safety consequences. SMS also includes processes that seek to identify potential organizational breakdowns and necessary process improvements."
Arendt stressed SMS is not a substitute for compliance nor oversight. SMS is not indicative of a "cozy relationship," he added, but it is designed to establish a more cooperative, collaborative environment. "It's about how to make safety decisions," he said.
The ANPRM is expected to cover all aspects of aviation - from operators to manufacturers, maintenance organizations and other service providers. The rulemaking would create a new "Part" within the Federal Aviation Regulations to accommodate SMS, but also would include elements that would fold in with the existing FARs that apply to the different aspects of aviation, Arendt said.
The agency late last month convened a new Aviation Rulemaking Committee to develop recommendations for the comprehensive SMS rule (BA, March 9/105).
The ARC initially is made up of 12 people from across the industry, but Russell Lawton, the director of safety management for the Air Charter Safety Foundation who was appointed to the ARC, said that the membership will grow as working groups form to consider the application of SMS to various aspects of industry.
Chartered through February 2012, the ARC will review comments and develop recommendations for the rulemaking.
FAA is under an international directive to establish an SMS rule. ICAO established a January 2009 deadline for nations to adopt an SMS mandate. Most member nations - including the U.S. - have not yet met the requirement. Canada is one of the few nations to have an SMS rule in place.
Also, the FAA has established a pilot project to help organizations voluntarily implement SMS. The project, ongoing since 2007, currently has about 50 participants, and Arendt indicated that his office would be willing to work with other volunteers. The agency also has issued an order, 8000.36, which Arendt said basically states "we buy into SMS."
But the agency currently has no guidance or procedures in place to formally approve SMS programs, which is worrying some international operators.
Flight Safety Foundation President Bill Voss acknowledged those concerns at the 2009 Air Charter Safety Symposium held earlier this month. His concerns were focused on liability protection, especially with the growing trend of criminalizing accidents. Companies must demonstrate that they have met best industry practices. But it would be difficult for U.S. organizations to meet those practices without an approved SMS program in place, Voss said.
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