The Jack of all Trades aka The Safety Manager

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As the aviation industry transitions into a world of SMS, the role of Safety Manager is evolving and has been brought into the lime light. Before today’s safety environment, this job may have been in a back office, processing reports and occasionally providing information to upper level management, but in today’s world the job is at the forefront of the larger safety program and all it encompasses. Safety is no longer crunching data from something that has already happened, it is actively pursuing and watching for the next potential risk.

To be a Safety Manager in today’s safety world, a person truly needs to be a Jack of all Trades. They need to know about flight operations, maintenance, dispatch, ground operations, cabin activities, airport operations, security, regulations, process design/improvement, data collection/analysis, report writing, presentation development, auditing, determining and assessing risk, industry happenings, and so the list goes on. The person that takes on the role of safety manager needs to have a grasp and understanding of all those topics and more.

A Safety Manager may be stronger in some fields than others, but that is what the rest of the safety department and subject matter experts are for. I’m bewildered when I see job listings for safety managers that list an ATP, jet time, and thousands of hours of flight time as a job requirement. Am I missing something? Is this person going to be a pilot or a safety manager? Why does the safety manager need to be jet qualified? Does being a pilot automatically give you the skills I mentioned? Being a highly experienced pilot has no correlation to being a successful safety manager. The Safety Manager needs to be able to read, understand, and correlate information on a wide variety of topics in aviation. Can you find someone who has experience/knowledge in all these areas? There may be a few in the industry, but you truly need someone who knows the basics and is willing to learn and isn’t biased based on their individual strengths.

For larger organizations, such as 121 air carriers and large 135 operators, finding and hiring a safety manager would be fairly easy. For small operators such as single aircraft 135s or corporate operations, the resources and finances necessary to hire a safety manager are minimal or nonexistent. The job often gets assigned to someone with an already full time position and safety is a secondary, or backburner, job. This makes it difficult if not impossible to implement and manage a full, functioning SMS. A dedicated safety manager with the appropriate knowledge and experience is necessary to be successful. If you can’t meet your Safety Manager needs, but still want the knowledge and experience, there is always the JDA Virtual Safety Office (VSO) option. Contact us for more information.

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