Safety Planning

Safety Planning


A basic element of the safety management system (SMS) that enables the setting of organisation’s safety objective and targets, as well as the identification of the necessary means and resources for their achievement.


The objective of safety planning is to achieve a continuous improvement of an organisation’s safety performance by:

  • Establishing the principle safety objective of the organisation;
  • Defining acceptable level(s) of safety of provided services;
  • Establishing safety performance targets to ensure the achievement of the principle safety objective;
  • Setting safety performance indicators to measure and demonstrate that the achieved level of safety meets the targets;
  • At the early stages of SMS introduction - establishing a SMS implementation plan to ensure a consistent, focused and holistic approach to the development of the necessary organisational structure, processes and procedures for safety management.

SMS Implementation Plan

Successful safety management requires clearly defined planning processes and procedures, designed to fit the organisational and management structure of the operator/service provider. A good SMS implementation and safety enhancement plan will lead the organisation towards accomplishing its safety objectives. The plan provides the vehicle for practical application of the basic safety principles defined in the organisation’s safety policy.

International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has introduced amendments in several Annexes to the Chicago Convention in order to harmonise and extend provisions relating to safety management. Those provisions require aviation services providers to develop and maintain an SMS implementation plan that defines the organisation’s approach to managing safety in a manner that meets the organisation’s safety needs.

Compatible with the practices of general management, a SMS begins with careful and detailed planning. The scope of the SMS implementation plan covers all SMS components, including organisational structure, safety management processes, means and procedures. Furthermore, the SMS implementation plan explicitly addresses the coordination between the SMS of the organisation and the SMS of other organisations the services provider must interface with during its operations.

As a general rule, the planning process should utilise the existing organisation’s capabilities and resources for safety management (including experience, knowledge, processes, management procedures, etc.). In order to improve its safety planning processes an organisation may assign a group of line managers in key positions and the person who will be designated as the organisation’s safety manager to participate and lead the planning activities.

Many operators/service providers already have internal procedures in place for safety reportinghazard identificationinvestigation of safety occurrencessafety monitoring, etc. These processes should be reviewed and, as necessary, adapted to ensure their consistent integration into the organisation’s SMS. Operators and service providers should utilise as many existing effective processes as practicable, as there is no need to replace well proven and fruitful procedures. During the planning process, it is also advisable to examine the existing best practices in SMS implementation by consulting other aviation services providers of similar size, operations and objectives.

The SMS implementation plan shall be endorsed by the senior management of the organisation.

Principal Safety Objective

The principal safety objective is a qualitative or quantitative statement that defines the aspirations and strategic goal of an organisation relating to the safety of services provided.

"Exceptional organisations set their objectives formally — clearly enunciating their vision, defining desired outcomes, spelling out the attainable steps for meeting the objectives, and documenting the process" (ICAO Doc 9859 - Safety Management Manual).

An example of safety objective applicable to the provision of air traffic management (ATM) service is given by EUROCONTROL ESARR3: “… while providing an ATM service, the principal safety objective is to minimise the ATM contribution to the risk of an aircraft accident as far as reasonably practicable”.

Acceptable Level of Safety Performance (ALoSP)

ALoSP is "the minimum level of safety performance of civil aviation in a State, as defined in its State safety programme, or of a service provider, as defined in its safety management system, expressed in terms of safety performance targets and safety performance indicators". (ICAO Doc 9859: Safety Management Manual (SMM))

ALoSP is a performance-based approach that defines actual safety performance levels within a prescribed State safety programme (SSP) framework. The concept is expressed by two specific metrics, namely safety performance targets and safety performance indicators. A set of defined performace indicators is compared against their respective targets. The ALoSP indicators are subject to periodical review and update.

A State’s basic safety indicators generally consist of high-consequence safety indicators (e.g. accident and serious incident rates). Such data is normally expressed in terms of rate instead of absolute numbers. Subsequently (at a mature ALoSP stage), lower-consequence safety indicators may be developed.

Safety Performance Targets

Safety performance targets define the required level of safety performance of a system. A safety performance target comprises one or more safety performance indicators, together with desired outcomes expressed in terms of those indicators. (ICAO Doc 9859 - Safety Management Manual)

Sometimes referred as goals or objectives, the safety performance targets are determined during the planning phase. They are set so as to ensure the achievement of the acceptable level of safety considered desirable and realistic for the individual operator/service provider. The desired safety outcome (target) may be presented either in absolute or relative terms. An example of desirable safety outcome, communicated in absolute terms is: less than 1 fatal accident per 1 000 000 operating hours.

As a rule, better insight into the acceptable level of safety will be provided by wider range of different safety performance targets (and indicators), rather than the usage of a single one.

The relationship between acceptable level of safety, safety performance targets and safety performance indicators, and safety requirements is as follows: acceptable level of safety is the overarching concept; safety performance targets are the quantified objectives pertinent to the acceptable level of safety; safety performance indicators are the measures/metrics used to determine if the acceptable level of safety has been achieved (ICAO Doc 9859 - Safety Management Manual)

Safety performance targets are subject to a periodic review and update, as necessary. These reviews are carried out as part of the strategic safety planning and improvement activities of the operator/service provider.

Safety Performance Indicators

A measure (or metric) used to express the level of safety performance achieved in a system (ICAO Doc 9859 - Safety Management Manual).

Safety indicators are linked to the safety performance targets. They enable the organisation to measure and demonstrate the achievement of the set target levels. The safety performance indicators should be easy to measure.

In general, safety performance indicators are presented in terms of the frequency of occurrence of harmful event(s). Safety indicators differ among the various sectors of the aviation industry such as, air navigation services provision, airline operations and aerodrome operations. Some examples of safety performance indicators are: number of serious aircraft incidents per 100 000 flight hours, pass/fail rate of air traffic controllers at licence validation checks (ANSPs), achieved mean time between failure (MTBF) for safety critical system components etc.

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