Safety Promotion

Safety Promotion


Safety promotion — Means, processes and procedures that ensure that aviation personnel are trained and competent to perform their safety management duties, and are prepared for effective two-way communication of safety issues between operational personnel and the organisation’s management. The primary source for this article is International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Doc 9859 — Safety Management Manual, Fourth Edition (2018).

A safety promotion programme at the State level, for example, provides safety risk controls as valuable as those found in airworthiness directives; oversight and monitoring of aviation service providers; amendments to certification; rule making or safety policies; and facilitating regional or national workshops focused on lessons learned.

Safety culture — According to Doc 9859, positive safety cultures develop from a basic idea: “When visibly supported by upper- and middle management, frontline employees tend to feel a sense of shared responsibilities towards achieving their safety objectives.”


ICAO Doc 9859 states, “Safety promotion plays a supporting, yet important, role in achieving effective control of safety risks during service delivery. … Once employees embrace and understand their responsibilities towards safety performance, it is expected they will actively seek means and information that can be used for effectively accomplishing their responsibilities towards a safe aviation.” Routine peer-to-peer communication among States and aviation service providers is essential to enhance the aviation industry’s safety culture, increase awareness of safety issues and encourage collaboration that helps to identify and implement safety-enhancement initiatives.


Safety promotion, at its best, instills a will to do the right thing at the right time in response to normal and emergency situations in aviation. It’s now a major component of safety management system (SMS) initiatives worldwide. Safety promotion builds upon two operational components of SMS: [management] and safety assurance. Synchronising the three focus areas helps aviation stakeholders to control latent and operational risks, and maintain proper balance between production and protection.

Safety promotion supports safety culture communication and safety lesson dissemination, and enables the continuous improvement process. The safety promotion requirements apply not only to aviation service provider organisations but also to States. In fact, safety promotion is identified as one of the four components of ICAO’s State Safety Programme (SSP). (The other components are State safety policy, objectives and resources; State safety risk management; and State safety assurance.)

Doc 9859 also links safety promotion to ICAO’s safety performance management process, safety data collection and processing systems (SDCPS) and safety analysis. Decisions generated by safety analysis, for example, should be communicated to all personnel at an aviation service provider to keep them informed of safety improvements and to continually enhance the organisational knowledge base.

According to terminology in ICAO Doc 9859, the SMS framework and safety promotion share two conceptual elements:

  • Training and education; and,
  • Safety communication.

Twenty years ago, EUROCONTROL's ESARR 3 set similar safety promotion requirements for air traffic service providers (ANSPs) regarding air traffic management (ATM). These requirements defined a slightly different scope, addressing:

ESARR 3 described competency-related requirements similar to those in the safety achievement domain of SMS. ESARR 3 said air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and air traffic management (ATM) “shall ensure that staff are adequately trained, motivated and competent for the job they are required to do, in addition to being properly licensed if so required.”

Notably, ICAO Doc 9859 recommends, “Safety promotion activities should be carried out throughout the life cycle of the SMS, not only at the beginning.” Another practice strongly endorsed by ICAO is creating a communication plan. A typical plan — at a minimum — maps high-priority interests and risks of aviation stakeholder groups, targets messages, selects optimal media/channels and measures effectiveness.

ICAO Doc 9859 also acknowledges the professional value of social media, adding, “Some [types of] information can be communicated through less formal bulletins and posts using social media, while others are better addressed in dedicated meetings or seminars.”

Training and Education

ICAO requires aviation service providers “to develop and maintain a safety training programme that ensures that personnel are trained and competent to perform their SMS duties.” Training programmes should be adapted to fit the needs and complexity of the organisation.

The scope of the safety training shall be appropriate to each individual’s involvement in the SMS. The provision of appropriate training to all staff, regardless of their level in the organisation, is an indication of management’s commitment to an effective SMS. The quality and effectiveness of training have a significant influence on the attitude and actual performance — the “professionalism” that the employees will subsequently demonstrate in their everyday work.

ICAO embraces positive safety culture as superior to outdated management philosophies, noting, “Effective safety management cannot be achieved solely by mandate or strict adherence to policies and procedures.”

Doc 9859 lists the following topics as essential for organisations’ accountable executives and senior managers to fulfill their safety training responsibilities:

  • “Specific awareness training for new accountable executives and post holders on their SMS accountabilities and responsibilities;
  • Importance of compliance with national and organisational safety requirements;
  • Management commitment;
  • Allocation of resources;
  • Promotion of the safety policy and the SMS;
  • Promotion of a positive safety culture;
  • Effective interdepartmental safety communication;
  • Safety objective, safety performance targets (SPTs) and alert levels; and,
  • Disciplinary policy.”

Initial and recurrent training for the individual employee’s role in SMS, as recommended by ICAO, should include the following competency-related subjects to maintain their proficiency in safety promotion tasks:

  • “Organisational safety policies and safety objectives;
  • Organisational roles and responsibilities related to safety;
  • Basic safety risk management (SRM) principles;
  • Safety reporting systems;
  • The organization’s SMS processes and procedures; and,
  • Human factors.”

Safety Communication

Like State authorities, non-governmental aviation service providers should develop and maintain formal programmes for safety communication. Programmes should include continuous safety-improvement feedback loops. Specifically, ICAO Doc 9859 recommends that organisations aim to:

  • “Ensure that staff are fully aware of the SMS [and promoting] safety policy and safety objectives;
  • Convey safety-critical information;
  • Raise awareness of new safety risk controls and corrective actions;
  • Provide information on new or amended safety procedures;
  • Promote a positive safety culture and encourage personnel to identify and report hazards; and,
  • Provide feedback to personnel … submitting safety reports on what actions have been taken to address any concerns identified.”

Finally, safety lesson dissemination remains a vital part of reducing aviation risk. Often, lesson dissemination closely complements safety training. As the ICAO document reiterates, “The safety manager should also ensure that lessons learned from investigations and case histories or experiences, both internally and from other organizations, are distributed widely.”

Without this practice, safety lessons either are not learnt or they become lost. Passage of time, distance from the event, changes of operational environment and subconscious drift toward complacency are among many human factors known to adversely affect aviation risk management.

Related Articles

Further Reading


  • ICAO Doc 9859 - Safety Management Manual, Fourth Edition - 2018.





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