View Full Version : SMS Failure in Canada?
10th Nov 2011, 02:03
Flight policy change called a risky manoeuvre - Canada - CBC News (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/11/08/airline-safety-system-flights.html)
When one considers that Canada was a major player in promoting the idea of SMS for aviation, this article doesn't paint a very favourable picture of the current state of affairs.
So I guess one of the many questions we should be asking about SMS collectively as an industry is, will it work in the end? There can be no question it will take quite some time for the theoretical part to sink in with the human element, but at the end of day, will it really just come down to the authorities allowing industry to police itself?
19th Nov 2011, 10:31
This is confusing the poor State Safety Programme (SSP) in Canada:ugh: with the excellent idea of SMS.
19th Nov 2011, 22:08
I watched The National piece about SMS in Canada while I was there recently and found it very interesting.
SMS is a seachange for a lot of the industry but I still believe it can be effective. It does appear that Canada attempted to use at a panacea for their staff shortages and this has lead to seemingly poor implementation.
20th Nov 2011, 03:48
SMS has the potential for being a very effective tool within aviation worldwide, allowing us to identify as an industry those factors which could potentially lead to incidents and accidents in the future by having companies identify and apply corrective actions specific to their operation rather than industry wide implementation which in a country like Canada, could pose problematic when considering that a company like Air Canada faces widely different operational challenges than say, First Air - even though they are bound by the same regulatory structure based on their equipment.
As Massey058 correctly pointed out the roll-out of SMS in Canada can be seen as a covering agent for staff shortages at Transport Canada. While I believe it is too soon to have actually happened this could cause a situation in the future where operators take shortcuts allowed by SMS. These shortcuts I refer to are inherent in the system - if a corrective action fails, an operator need only self-identify that it has failed and Transport Canada is happy that the system is working.
Unfortunately the bosses at TC have put their inspectors - who with one or two exceptions are hard working folk, in a position where they can no longer do their jobs. I personally know three inspectors who have not had a chance to ramp an aircraft in months because they are stuck at a desk reviewing findings from audits created by SMS which otherwise in the past would have necessitated a phone call or visit, but now they are required to complete at least a couple weeks of memos, findings, corrective action plans, et al.
In my opinion SMS would be an effective tool if it were combined with the previous system of inspections and spot checks rather than replacing it. Require operators to report to the regulatory body on their top 10 safety concerns for the past quarter and the corrective actions they applied. Then have the inspectors go out during their normal spot check and inspection runs and have a look at which corrective actions are working and which are not. Then the inspectors would meet to determine which actions are working and which are not; compile and publish this list to industry so that all operators are provided the opportunity to compare and adjust their own operations.
Doing this every quarter, at least initially, would allow us as an industry to identify gaps and errors in not only our own companies, but also across the board and it would allow for all the great ideas to be used by everyone.
Big Pistons Forever
20th Nov 2011, 17:37
The fundemental problem with SMS in Canada is its "one size fits all" approach. It has unfortunately become a box ticking , form filling exercise, where "sucess" is measured in how much paper is produced not in evaluating whether any of the corrective action plans are actually sensible and effective.
I know of one small corporate operation with only a few pilots that has to have a SMS system as a condition of their private operating certificate. After being hammered in their last audit for "insufficent number of SMS obsrevations" they now have quarterly meetings where they make up findings in order to populate the SMS database :rolleyes:
This operation is IMO run to a very high standard with management that wants to do things right. But the reality is a lot of things that come up are simple problems with obvious fixes and end up being dealt with in a quick face to face meeting, as they have only one base and it is easy to get the few pilots together. SMS has no virtually no value added for this operator and waste resources that should be applied to the kinds of operators where SMS is of actual value, like ones with a large number of small bases and lots of aircraft.
24th Nov 2011, 19:47
SMS has a value even with a one man company.
Recording your assessments is an essential part of an SMS. If there are 2 or more of you working together to identify non compliances is a value added activity.
24th Nov 2011, 20:03
I don't think anyone would disagree with your overview of SMS Shell Management.
You are right, its never a bad thing to write down what when wrong and how you corrected it. It is wrong, however, to force operators to "come up" with issues just to populate a database.
As BPF pointed out - and I have seen myself countless times - it is a numbers game. If you do not have an identified proactive or reactive faults, then your system is at fault - it could not possibly be that there was a period where no one had anything to report because they were - eek - doing their jobs correctly and safely.
SMS will begin to work when the regulator stops this idea that the more the merrier (among other things).
I'd rather have one incident report with a good quality corrective action that actually works and people agree with than 10 corrective actions to 10 incidents which only band-aid the issue.
24th Nov 2011, 20:35
Oh but you need the volume of reports.
26th Nov 2011, 07:48
I can see the logic in wanting volume - it would allow you to eventually see all the potential safety issues within an organization - and that is the basis for SMS.
I think what BPF and I are referring (and correct me if Im wrong) is that it is wrong to require an operator to "generate" safety issues, instead of "identifying" issues.
Just because you have 100 safety reports does not mean that all of them are good - it just means you have 100 of them - and what if even 10 of those are generated by someone looking out the window and thinking about stuff?
More does not immediately equate to better. Sure over time more reports will give you a clearer overall picture. Is it not, however, better to get those reports over the course of a couple years where you can treat each safety report with time and care and make sure that you come up with corrective actions where everyone can be involved - especially those who will need to benefit from the correction?
Or, is it better to have volume now so we can show how good little collectors we are, but where we have to address these concerns in the span of a month because god forbid the regulator finds you having outstanding reports without action?
27th Nov 2011, 08:05
"Oh but you need the volume of reports"
No, you need to have each employees faith in the fundemental concept and trust in the processes employed, those who administer the system, and that senior management won't interfer. Without those cultural elements you have nothing. You can have a good culture and only get a few reports a year, the size and scale of the organisation and nature of the operation is also a variant. One size does not fit all.
Big Pistons Forever
28th Nov 2011, 02:43
You can have a good culture and only get a few reports a year, the size and scale of the organisation and nature of the operation is also a variant.
Having an "effective" SMS is a condition of your operating certificate if you are operating under Canadian rules for private turbine/jet operations. So what do you do when the auditor says you are not generating enough reports, knowing that not "correcting" this perceived lack of reports will potentially put your OC at risk ?