Monday, October 23, 2017
Transport Canada - Aviation Safety Letter Safety Management Systems—Civil Aviation

Safety Management Systems—Civil Aviation

by Jean-François Mathieu, Chief, Aviation Enforcement, Standards, Civil Aviation,
Transport Canada

Historically, Civil Aviation has addressed contraventions committed by aviation companies or their staff by conducting an investigation into the event in order to apply some type of punitive measure as a deterrent. With the advent of the safety management system (SMS) regulatory initiative, however, this process is changing.

In order to meet the goals of the Civil Aviation SMS Enforcement Policy, Civil Aviation has developed a process for its inspectors to follow when they become aware that a company (enterprise) with an SMS may have committed a contravention of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) or of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDGR). This process is described in Civil Aviation Staff Instruction SUR-006: Safety Management Systems—Civil Aviation Non-Compliance Event Review Process www.tc.gc.ca/CivilAviation/IMSdoc/IMSDocuments/SUR/SUR-006.htm).

With the publication of this process, the Civil Aviation manager responsible for oversight and certification of an enterprise (enterprise manager) is directed to open a documented dialogue with the enterprise when apprised that a contravention may have been committed. The dialogue is intended to verify that the enterprise’s SMS can, and will, appropriately address the circumstances that led to the contravention.

In order to accomplish this, the enterprise manager shall:

  • verify that the event was reported internally within the enterprise’s internal reporting program;
  • evaluate whether or not the contravention was committed intentionally (more on this later);
  • inform the enterprise that corrective measures that are intended to address the event are to be developed within a specified period (90 days typically).

Once the enterprise manager is satisfied that the organization’s SMS has appropriately addressed the event, no further action will be taken against the enterprise. In order to support and promote the use of this SMS-oriented review process, the Aviation Enforcement Division will not conduct its own investigation and will not impose punitive measures (typically, a monetary penalty or temporary document suspension) against either the person who committed the contravention or the enterprise itself. Aviation Enforcement will open an investigation only if the enterprise manager is not satisfied that the goals of the Civil Aviation SMS Enforcement Policy are being met.

If the enterprise manager determines that the event was not internally reported (without justification), or is not satisfied by the proposed corrective measures, the manager may forward the matter to Aviation Enforcement for its action, which may include the imposition of punitive measures. Alternately, if the enterprise manager is not entirely satisfied with the proposed corrective measures, the manager may seek revised or enhanced proposals from the enterprise as long as such a course of action is likely to result in an acceptable resolution.

As indicated earlier, the enterprise manager will evaluate the nature of the contravention to determine if it was committed intentionally. The Staff Instruction also provides some guidelines to determine if intent was involved. Of course, intent is a complicated subject, and as a result, the enterprise manager is afforded some latitude in making this evaluation. When the enterprise manager determines that the contravention was likely committed with intent, the manager will forward the matter to Aviation Enforcement—the Civil Aviation SMS Enforcement Policy does not apply to intentional contraventions. If unsure about the intent, the enterprise manager is counselled to remain within the process in order to seek an SMS-generated resolution that would best serve the goals of improving safety and compliance. In addition, where the employee has committed the contravention with intent, but the enterprise does not support the behaviour that led to the contravention, the enterprise manager is directed to remain within the SMS event-review process. It is recognized that pursuing an individual for a single contravention will not necessarily address any cultural or organizational issues that may have played a role in the contravention. By approaching such an event from an SMS-oriented perspective, Civil Aviation will be more likely to effect the necessary cultural and organizational changes required for overall improvement in safety and compliance. For these reasons, the enterprise manager shall, other than in extreme circumstances that fall outside the scope of the enterprise’s control, evaluate the intent of the organization rather than the intent of the individual who committed the contravention. As indicated above, the purpose of evaluating intent is solely to determine if the process should be used.

Transitional enterprises
To encourage organizations that are not yet required to have an SMS to adopt the SMS framework and to accommodate enterprises that are developing their SMS as new regulations regarding SMS requirements come into force, Civil Aviation has adopted a policy whereby the Staff Instruction shall apply to a transitional enterprise. The Civil Aviation SMS Enforcement Policy has defined transitional enterprises as those that “have been diligently involved in the development of an SMS, which would eventually meet the requirements of the new SMS regulations, and are following a ‘phase-in’ process similar to the one outlined in TC-published advisory material such as TP 14343—Implementation Procedures Guide for Air Operators and Approved Maintenance Organizations.” To benefit from this process, the enterprise’s SMS must have developed to the stage where the following conditions are met:

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    1. the enterprise has developed an effective internal reporting program supported and promoted by the company’s management;
    2. the enterprise’s SMS is capable of a reactive event-analysis process adequate for determining root cause and developing corrective measures;
    3. in order to meet the needs of the process, the corrective measures are made readily available to the Civil Aviation enterprise manager for the manager’s review and acceptance.

Conclusion
It is a goal of the SMS initiative that aviation enterprises take ownership of their own safety and compliance issues. In order to support this concept, this event-review process accepts that if an enterprise recognizes and corrects its own safety and compliance issues through the implementation of SMS programs, traditional enforcement should not be necessary.

Transport Canada will not compromise safety nor ignore any contraventions of the regulations, but will encourage the development of a safety culture as an essential element of the SMS framework

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