Safety Accountabilities and Responsibilities

Safety Accountabilities and Responsibilities


Safety responsibility: the obligation to carry forward an assigned safety related task to its successful conclusion. With responsibility goes authority to direct and take the necessary action to ensure success.

Safety accountability: the obligation to demonstrate the task achievement and take responsibility for the safety performance in accordance with agreed expectations. Accountability is the obligation to answer for an action.


Clear and correctly allocated safety accountabilities and responsibilities are prerequisite for achieving the organisation’s safety objectives and for implementing an effective safety management and safety improvement process.


Safety accountabilities and responsibilities should be allocated to the management and personnel involved in safety related tasks. This includes allocation of accountabilities and responsibilities for the safety of operations (safety performance of the organisation), but also for the implementation and operation of the safety management system (SMS) of the operator/service provider in line with the defined safety management roles. The former are often defined in a dedicated annex to the job description, whereas the latter are usually described in the Safety Management Manual (SMM) of the organisation.

Safety responsibility can be delegated, i.e. cascaded down, within the scope of the defined job responsibilities, provided such delegation is documented. Safety accountability can not be delegated. It defines the obligation of the responsible person to demonstrate the satisfactory discharge of his/her safety responsibilities.

Safety management accountabilities and responsibilities are allocated in accordance with the organisation’s general management structure and SMS organisational structure. Normally, the SMS does not define safety accountabilities and responsibilities outside its scope. The SMM does not describe the general arrangement of delegation of responsibilities within the operational and technical departments and their internal safety administration. In many organisations, safety accountabilities and responsibilities in relation to SMS are restricted to managers and staff performing safety management functions only.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 19 requirements relating to the implementation of SMS, the aviation service providers shall identify the accountable executive who, irrespective of other functions, has ultimate responsibility and accountability, on behalf of the organisation, for the implementation and maintenance of the SMS. Service provider are also required to appoint a safety manager who is responsible for the implementation and maintenance of an effective SMS. The operators/service providers are also required to identify the safety accountabilities of all members of management, irrespective of other functions.

ICAO Doc 9859 - Safety Management Manual advises aircraft operators and aviation service providers to maintain, regardless of the scope of their operation, a formal statement of safety responsibilities and accountabilities. This statement should clarify the formal and informal reporting lines of the organisational structure and should specify accountabilities for particular activities. For example, the Safety manager could be accountable to the top management (the Executive Director) for the discharge of his/her safety responsibilities (development, maintenance, monitoring of SMS; preparation of specific safety procedures; etc.).

In order to ensure the needed safety awareness and commitment of all personnel involved in safety related tasks, the safety accountabilities and responsibilities shall be clearly and comprehensively defined, documented and communicated throughout the organisation.

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