Safety Policy - What is it?

The Safety Policy is a clear message to all staff as to how the organisation manages safety. It is not just a page that is only found in an SMS Manual. Where, other than the Safety Manual, is yours?

Why is it important?

An SMS can only grow with the backing of those at the top running an organisation and all staff doing their bit. This will only happen if staff are made aware of this, have full trust that this is the case and know their part to play in the SMS. A Safety Policy is the means to do this. So it is a very important part of an SMS, but it is not always seen or understood as such. Many people, including those who may have signed the policy, when asked about their organisation’s Safety Policy do not know what is in it, and sometimes do not know where to find it. Clearly in these cases the Safety Policy is not working. What is the case in your organisation?

It should:

  • Be read and understood by all staff on revision and on joining an organisation
  • Be clearly on display and available around the organisation for all staff to view
  • Clearly outline what the organisation expects of the staff with regards to safety
  • Clearly outline what the staff can expect of the organisation with regards to safety
  • Be signed by the Accountable Manager
  • Be yours, be clear, using your language and your organisation’s style
  • Be reviewed regularly

It should include a commitment to:

  • Highest safety standards
  • All applicable regulatory requirements
  • International standards
  • Adoption of proven best practices
  • Continuous improvement
  • Encouragement of all reporting
  • A just culture

It is usual to find the Safety Policy within an SMS Manual or within another of the Organisation’s Manuals. Think how people in your organisation could easily see it. Some organisations display it on the wall around staff’s places of work or on the company intranet. Some include it in their staff joining paperwork and some use it in staff training that may be presented by the Head of the organisation. It may be included and expanded upon in staff newsletters. To check it is understood, ask staff what is in it, where it can be found and what they understand about it.

You should think about this policy regularly to see how you and your staff work to it day to day. To build trust, the policy should be seen to be followed. This can be demonstrated by how safety concerns, reports, compliance, standards and best practice are handled and viewed. To encourage reporting following a just culture is really important: this gives staff confidence to report. A just culture can take a long time to create but can be destroyed very quickly by not appearing to follow  it.

Where to start in creating or revising a Safety Policy?

To create or revise your Safety Policy you may search the internet to find others’ policies by searching: “aviation safety policy”. Look through a sample of these. Check these policies against the points already noted here; do they follow these? By doing this you can see what works, what does not work and then adapt these to your style with the message you want to give. These should provide a good starting point. Once you have created your Safety Policy check it out against the points and then ask others to check it for you. Ask them to tell you what they understand by your Safety Policy. You may have to try this a few times.

Once you are happy you need to inform all staff of this Safety Policy: think how to do this. Then check that they have seen and understood the Safety Policy. This can be done by going and asking staff about the Safety Policy. Then, every now and again, review the Safety Policy. As your business and SMS grows you may need to change your Safety Policy.

So, in summary, to create or revise a Safety Policy:

  • Find some other aviation Safety Policies and check them against the points above
  • Pick out what you want that works and adapt these to your style
  • Check the version meets all the points
  • Test the version on some people
  • Change, if required (go back two steps)
  • If it is ok, inform all staff of the Safety Policy
  • Check they are aware of it and understand it
  • At some point review the Safety Policy
A Safety Policy is an important part of an SMS. It is important to get what it says right for your company. It is important everyone knows about it, understands it and works with it.
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