SMS: It’s about communications and culture.

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istock_5339911sm_three_loudspeakers1A positive and dynamic safety culture is a prerequisite for implementing a Safety Management System (SMS).  Before any organization, (airport, air traffic organization, air carrier, helicopter operators, manufacturer or repair station) can implement an effective SMS, the company needs to have the appropriate safety culture and promotion component (communications) in place. More importantly it should be a reflection and subset of the organization’s overall corporate culture.   As culture is a group phenomenon, the learned and shared assumptions, values and beliefs that result in the behavior of a company, and the state of the safety culture have to be more than making assumptions.

Transitioning to SMS cannot be viewed as adopting a new safety program. SMS is a change in the way a company does business day-to-day. It is a “systematic and comprehensive process for the pro-active management of safety risks that integrates the management of operations and technical systems with financial and human resources management.”  Getting and sustaining employee commitment to the process is essential and it must emanate from the top of the organization. Achieving that objective is through communicating the benefits, rewarding participation, enforcing accountability and responsibility, embracing change and demanding excellence. When an organization adopts SMS processes, change is not only possible but it must become inherent in the way the company operates.  SMS should be viewed as a living business process.

Quite often we read “Safety is First” but the fact is safety is the common bond with everything the company does. It needs to permeate the entire organization in every facet and function. A characteristic of an organization that has successfully moved to an SMS is open communications. Proactively addressing issues daily enables organizations to discuss any issue freely. Without open communication channels, SMS becomes just another document to store on the shelf.

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