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Helicopter Safety

Implementing a Safety Management System - Part 1

Safety Management Systems. Why would any small helicopter operator want to introduce a Safety Management System? The reasons are multiple and include:

- It is a regulatory requirement.

- The direct and indirect costs of an accident are huge and Safety Management Systems have been proven to be effective in preventing accidents.

- Employees are happier when they are ensured a safer working environment.

- When bidding on contracts, it is necessary to demonstrate a working Safety Management System to auditors.

Having established the necessity of having a Safety Management System in place, how do we proceed to implement one ? Well, firstly, fairly obviously, there needs to be a description of the system written down in a Safety Management System Manual, or, if allowed by regulators in your country, in a relevant section of the Operations Manual. This is often the first big stumbling block. It can be difficult to find the correct information to put in this manual. Probably the easiest way to get a start is to send an employee on an appropriate SMS course. Often the course presenters will provide access to a pro-forma SMS manual during the course. It would include some of the following important elements of the Safety Management System :

- Statement of Management Commitment. It is very important to have a statement from the highest company management person, reaffirming the company's commitment to safety.

- Details of the company hazard and incident reporting and monitoring systems.

- Details of responsibilities of various postholders regarding safety oversight, reporting.

- Emergency response plan.

The Safety Management System should be overseen by the Safety Manager, but it is important to note that the General Manager (or highest managerial post ) of the company is the responsible person concerning the continued safe operations of the company.

Preferably, the Safety Manager should be involved in the daily flying activites, but should also have enough time to deal properly with all safety issues. They should preferably be an individual that is respected by the flying crew and ground personnel.

Part 2 to follow soon, but in the interim, here is a resource for obtaining a SMS description and manual :
International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) SMS Toolkit


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