The most common problem areas found in safety management system (SMS) implementation by commercial air transport and general aviation flight operations in 2012 involved risk assessment and general operating manuals, according to a recently released audit analysis report from PRISM Solutions and sister company Argus PROS (Figure 1).
PRISM analyzed 73 audits conducted by Argus PROS from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2012, and compiled the results from all of the audits into a single report that is available at www.argus.aero. Argus PROS audits all aspects of a company’s flight operations, including the organization’s SMS. “The audits follow a ‘systems’ and ‘process’ methodology, and are not exclusively focused on compliance,” the companies said.
The objective of the PRISM report is to highlight the recurring problem areas found in SMS implementation, the companies said. “Although the audit report portrays a number of positive trends, the value of this report is its ability to allow operators around the world to evaluate their own safety programs, identify where gaps exist, and seek to reduce risk exposure,” they said.
According to the report, 58 percent of the 2012 audit findings point to deficiencies in risk assessment. Risk assessments, according to PRISM, help identify, evaluate, mitigate and validate current risks in an operation. They “can also determine gaps in policy and procedures when a change is made, such as adding a new aircraft to the operation,” the report said.
After risk assessment, the next most common problem area involved the general operating manual (GOM), which defines the policies, procedures and organizational structures to accomplish company goals. Of the 73 operators audited, 45 percent had deficiencies in GOM. According to PRISM, a GOM “must be accurate, up-to-date, and consistent with other manuals in order to prevent miscommunication and confusion.”
SMS training and internal evaluation programs were cited as deficiency areas with 38 percent and 36 percent of the operators, respectively. Sample audit recommendations for SMS training included “The safety manager should receive formal training for the development and implementation of an SMS.” For internal evaluation programs, a sample recommendation was “Resolution of findings … should include a root cause analysis and documented follow-up when appropriate.”
Audit findings for 2012 differed somewhat from the previous year. In 2011, GOM recommendations were the most common, with deficiencies found at 64 percent of 74 operators, followed by safety training (47 percent) and deficiencies with the SMS manual (38 percent). Risk assessment (36 percent) was the fourth most common recommendation area in 2011, according to the PRISM analysis.
The PRISM report also compares 2012’s recommendations from 73 audits with the results of 249 audits conducted from 2008 through 2011 (Figure 2). Results from the 2008–2011 period show that the three most common recommendations were about internal evaluation program (47 percent), SMS training (47 percent) and operating manual (43 percent). Last year’s most common deficiency, risk assessment, was cited as a deficiency in 30 percent of the audits during the 2008–2011 period, according to the PRISM report.
PRISM also reviewed the audit reports of the operators’ emergency response programs (ERPs) for 2012 and for the 2008–2011 period (Figure 3). The largest share of 2012 recommendations, 26 percent, involved documentation. Sample recommendations included “that on-site team members be identified in the SMS manual by official job position within the company and all ERP documents be controlled.” Another recommendation pointed out that an ERP did not contain guidance for dealing with in-flight incidents involving injuries or serious medical problems suffered by passengers or crew.
The next most common area of deficiency, 16 percent, was blood-borne pathogens (BBP) and personal protection equipment (PPE) training. Sample recommendations included that the on-site response team be trained in the use of bio-hazard suits and that the team be trained for BBP exposure. Next-of-kin notification and family assistance was the third most common recommendation area at 15 percent.
Comparing the 2012 ERP results with the 2011 results shows that the most common recommendations stayed basically the same from one year to the next, but that the number of organizations that had deficiencies in these areas declined from 2011 to last year. In 2011, the PRISM report shows that documentation was the most frequently cited area (30 percent of 74 operators versus 26 percent of 73 operators in 2012), followed by BBP/PPE/next-of-kin notification and by family assistance (both found in 23 percent of 74 operators).
Both PRISM Solutions and Argus PROS are wholly owned subsidiaries of Argus International.