Helicopter SMS Toolkit

Helicopter SMS Toolkit


The IHST (now called the Vertical Aviation Safety Team) SMS Toolkit is a Safety Management System toolkit of use to all helicopter operators, regardless of the size of their business, what roles and tasks they undertake, and where they operate in the world.

The 2005 International Helicopter Safety Symposium marked the beginning of an international effort to reduce the accident rate by at least 80 percent by 2016. The International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) was formed to lead efforts toward reaching this objective.

As part of the IHST’s activities, it created teams (Joint Helicopter Safety Analysis Teams (JHSAT)) to analyse hundreds of accident reports worldwide and to identify common causal themes. As a result of this analysis, several recommendations were made for focussed assistance to the helicopter community.

The JHSAT’s foremost recommendation was the need to implement a Safety Management System (SMS) for use by the helicopter industry. The JHSIT prepared this toolkit to help organizations understand the fundamentals of safety management system. It serves as a guide to implement and manage an SMS, tailored to organizations of all sizes.

The Toolkit

IHST SMS Toolkit

Based on the findings of the JHSAT's activity, safety management problems were one of the broadest categories requiring intervention. This toolkit addresses the issues uncovered in the US JHSAT report and provides an SMS that proactively promotes safety through a continuous improvement program. This SMS includes attitudes toward assessing and managing risk and managing safety as a proactive organization; it promotes safety-driven decision making through risk assessment and supports a positive and systemic safety culture.

This SMS document is an advanced, integrated method of implementing standards identified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO); whilst it was developed by our colleagues in the US and therefore has a few references to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), it is nevertheless of use wherever you operate in the world.

The toolkit provides assistance for organizations to achieve improved safety performance using a “performance based approach”. It encourages organizations to choose the solution that best suits their needs and performance objectives. The toolkit helps the organization determine their level of compliance and to develop an action plan that includes the necessary components.

IHST SMS Toolkit Overview

The Introduction provides a summary of why the Toolkit was developed; it addresses the need for an SMS and describes what it is. The rest of the Toolkit is broken down into 4 chapters:

  • Chapter 1 - Identifies policies, procedures, and human responsibilities that organizations use to capture and then achieve their desired level of safety. Policies characterize the nature and performance of an organization whilst procedures define how to execute these policies. The section on human responsibilities identifies the duties, responsibilities, authority, goals and objectives that impact an SMS.
  • Chapter 2 - Identifies the theories and philosophy behind creating an SMS program that emphasizes the use of 12 core elements in designing an effective SMS plan. These elements include the objectives and expectations which are core to a robust and functional SMS.
  • Chapter 3 - Organised, systematic guidelines are provided that can be followed over time to implement an SMS. A checklist for the 12 elements will help to guide organizations in SMS preparation.
  • Chapter 4 - Contains a variety of resources to assist in designing an SMS manual for organizations wishing to establish an SMS. It includes a definition of terms, checklists and a CD containing examples of forms used in implementing and managing an SMS.

EHEST Safety Management Toolkit

The EHEST Safety Management Toolkit was created by the Specialist Team Operations & Safety Management System (EHSIT ST Ops & SMS) of the European Helicopter Safety Team (EHEST). EHEST, which is now defunct and has been succeeded in large part by the European Safety Promotion Network Rotorcraft, was the European component of the former International Helicopter Safety Team, which is now known as the International Helicopter Safety Foundation, and the helicopter branch of the European Strategic Safety Initiative (ESSI) (ESSI), which closed in 2016.

The Toolkit has been developed with consideration being given to the Annex III to the EU regulation on Air Operations, Part ORO Subpart GEN Section II ‘Management System’ and the relevant AMCs and GM, published in October 2012.

The first Safety Management Toolkit targets Complex Operators as set out in AMC1 ORO.GEN.200(b) Management System, and will be mostly beneficial for those operators with little experience of running an SMS. The 2nd edition was published in May 2013.

EHEST also released in December 2013 a Safety Management Toolkit for non-Complex Operators.

The EHEST SM Toolkit for Complex Operations

EHEST SMS for Complex Operations Toolkit, May 2013

The EHEST Safety Management Toolkit contains the following three components:

  1. The EHEST Company Safety Management Manual (SMM)
  2. The EHEST Emergency Response Plan (ERP)
  3. The EHEST Safety Management Database User Guide

Download the EHEST SMS for Complex Operations Toolkit v2, May 2013

The EHEST SM Toolkit for non-Complex Operations

EHEST SMS Toolkit for non-Complex Operations, 2nd Edition, October 2014

The Safety Management Toolkit for non-Complex Operators consists of:

  • Safety Management Manual (SMM),
  • Guidance Document,
  • Emergency Response Plan.

Download the EHEST SMS Toolkit for non-Complex Operations, 2nd Edition, October 2014

The SMM for non-Complex Operators is a sample manual designed to assist an operator in creating their own manual. It contains explanatory notes and instructions marked in italics. The SMM must be adapted to appropriately reflect the operator’s organisation and needs and should not be applied ‘as is’.

The EHEST Leaflet (HE5) Risk Management in Training

HE5 Training Leaflet – Risk management in training, March 2013

Training organisations may benefit from another EHEST publication: the EHEST Leaflet (HE5) Risk Management in Training. This document was developed with major stakeholders and provides tools and methods for risk management in training. Training for autorotation is used as a practical example to illustrate the process. That process is compatible with the approach presented in the EHEST SMS Toolkits.

Download the EHEST Leaflet (HE5) Risk Management in Training, March 2013


The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) was formally introduced and made available to the business aviation community at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibit (EBACE) in Geneva, May 2002. IS-BAO was developed by the industry for the benefit of the industry. It is a code of best practices designed to help flight departments worldwide achieve a high level of safety and professionalism.

At the core of the IS-BAO is a company Safety Management System (SMS). A safety-risk profile is a documented overview of the risks likely to be experienced by the flight operations of the company. The safety-risk profile is operator specific.

Guidelines have been developed to assist aircraft operators to identify the hazards and categorise the risks related to their operations, develop and document mitigations, and track and measure the results of their activities.

Developed by an international team of experts sponsored by the Helicopter Association International (HAI), the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), the new European Helicopter Association (EHA) and the British Helicopter Association (BHA) (all member of the IHST and/or of the EHEST), the 2012 revision of IS-BAO also addresses helicopter operations.

Access the IS-BAO website

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