The Role of the Regulator and the Responsibility of Industry
We all have our part to play in a complex aviation environment which has many hazards and it is important to understand the role of the regulator and the responsibilities of industry in working for a safer environment.
If we look at requirements, it is for the regulator to provide clear direction to industry on the standards that they should comply with. These standards (which are based on ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices) are largely reactive, resulting from incident and accidents that have already taken place and the need to prevent them happening again. The regulator needs to establish the requirements and make these accessible for industry.
It is then industry's responsibility to ensure that they know what is in the requirement and have a means in place to ensure that they meet these standards and verify that they are doing so via a Quality Management System (QMS). However, there is also the need for a proactive approach and it is for industry to take responsibility for its safety risks and to put in place a system where it can monitor and manage these risks using its Safety Management System (SMS). If you think about the requirements in terms of SMS, they are a form of hazard identification, and therefore compliance with them will mitigate many of the risks that an operation is exposed to. Compliance coupled with an SMS will create more effective and proactive management of risk.
The regulator also has an oversight role - the purpose of which is for the regulator to sample aspects of the organisation to assure itself that the operation is being conducted in accordance with requirements. Audits are a means of achieving this and provide information both to the regulator and the operator but they are not a substitute for the proper functioning of the organisation's own QMS and SMS. An audit is an opportunity to have an independent view of your operations and findings can be integrated into hazard logs and provide information for internal Quality audits.
Both the regulator and industry have specific parts to play in the safety of aviation. It is the regulator's role to provide requirements and conduct oversight but, in the end, it is for industry to ensure that its compliant operations are conducted safely and the primary responsibility for this rests with the Accountable Manager of the organisation concerned.