Safety Management System (SMS)

A Safety Management System (SMS) is a systematic approach to managing safety through organizational structures, accountabilities, policies, and procedures.

In other words, SMS is an integrated set of work practices, cultures, beliefs, and procedures.

The SMS is used for monitoring and improving the safety and health of all aspects of the entire organization.

Safety management system (SMS) is the standard in the aviation industry worldwide. It is recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), National Aviation Authorities (NAA), and product/service providers as a proven set of systems for safety in aviation.

Based on ICAO definition…
Safety is the state in which the risk of harm to persons or property damage is reduced to and maintained at or below, an acceptable level through a continuing process of hazard identification and risk management.

ICAO SMS requirement

A system that

  • Identifies hazards
  • Takes action to maintain safety performance
  • Monitor and assess its performance
  • Continual improvement is practiced

4 Pillars of SMS

1. Safety policy and objectives

This is a statement that establishes senior management’s commitment to continuously improve safety and health. It defines the methods, processes, and organizational structures needed to meet safety and health goals.

2. Safety risk management

It determines the need and adequacy of new or revised risk controls based on the assessment towards an acceptable risk.

3. Safety Assurance

It evaluates the continued effectiveness of implementing these control strategies to support the identification of new hazards. Continual improvement practices are also part of this.

The role of the quality management system (QMS) is to ensure the quality of our safety performance by identifying the substandard performance of SMS activities and its causes.

4. Safety promotion

It is an element that includes training, communication, promotion and education, and other actions to create a positive safety culture within all levels of the workforce.

The role of safety promotion is to :

  • Encourage a positive safety culture
  • Create an environment where safety objective can be achieved
  • Develop awareness in the workforce that gains support for the SMS
  • Foster improve communication

QMS and SMS in Aviation

The relationship between the Quality Management System (QMS) and Safety Management System (SMS) has developed into an insightful association in the aviation industry. The importance of their harmonious integration is becoming a crucial element in any successful flight operation as SMS continues to evolve and become more regulated and takes on a dominant role in a company’s overall strategy.

Both have common methods and techniques, but different objectives. QMS’s objective is Customer Satisfaction and SMS’s objective is Aviation Safety. QMS is not mandatory but if there is one, it cannot be in conflict with SMS. Quality is essentially looking at compliance, while safety is looking at risk.

Difference Between QMS and SMS

There is a distinction between the concepts of quality management system and safety management system. It is possible to have a quality product or service, as defined by the ISO standards, and still not have a safe product or service.

The adoption of some of the types of tools and techniques used in quality management is also used to manage the safety system. However, it must not be assumed to mean that processes designed to produce a quality product, (repeatedly doing the same thing, without variation) equates to the same thing as repeatedly producing a safe product.

Improving a safety record is not the same as improving safety performance. There are many airlines that have extremely good safety records but are operating with inadequate organizational structures or unsafe performance and have just not had an accident. A good safety record, just like a good quality record, does not guarantee safe performance.

Improvements to the QMS process are needed to fully meet SMS requirements. This includes establishing processes to better identify new hazards and establishing processes to measure the effectiveness of safety risk controls. These improvements are developed during the SMS implementation effort. Safety management and Quality management are complementary and work closely together to achieve the overall safety goals of the organization.


  1. Now a days safety is very important in every Industry type and one is confused differences between QMS & SMS, so one can clearly understand here. Well explained about Quality Management System (QMS) and Safety Management System (SMS).

  2. Quality manager is trained and certified by external (ISO recognised) competent organization, not the same for safety manager. We need to fill this gap.

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