Oct 07, 2009

FAA Seeks Public Comment on Potential Rulemaking on Safety Management Systems

On July 23, 2009, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) and requested public comments on a potential rulemaking on Safety Management Systems (SMS). Public comments are due October 21, 2009.

The rule being contemplated by the agency would require certain 14 CFR part 21, 119, 121, 125, 135, 141, 142 and 145 certificate holders, product manufacturers, applicants and employers to develop an SMS. SMS comes from the International Civil Aviation Organization and provides a comprehensive, systems-based, process-oriented approach to managing safety throughout an organization. An SMS includes an organization-wide safety policy, formal methods of identifying hazards, mitigating and continually assessing risk, and promotion of an overall safety culture. SMS stresses not only compliance with technical standards but increased emphasis on the organizational aspects and processes that ensure risk management and safety assurance. SMS is comparable to familiar management system standards from the ISO and the ANSI.

Canadian and EU agencies are considerably ahead of the FAA in imposing required SMS on their aviation industries. Some U.S. aircraft operators are voluntarily employing SMS today. SMS is included as part of the IS-BAO (International Standard for Business Aircraft Operators) program promulgated as a best-practices set of standards by the International Business Aviation Council. The FAA has previously published a description of SMS in its Advisory Circular No. 120-92, Introduction to Safety Management Systems for Air Operators (2007). The FAA is in process of implementing SMS internally within its own organization.

The FAA is considering an SMS rule to furnish providers of aviation products and services with a standardized set of requirements for an SMS including the key components of Safety Policy, Safety Risk Management, Safety Assurance and Safety Promotion. Safety Policy outlines the methods and processes the organization’s SMS will use to achieve the desired safety outcomes. Safety Risk Management processes are used to assess system design and verify that it adequately controls risk. Safety Assurance processes are used to ensure risk controls achieve their intended objectives throughout the life cycle of a system. Safety Promotion requires creating an environment where safety objectives can be achieved.

The FAA would like information from the public regarding SMS generally but also specifically as to certain issues, including what aviation products or services an organization provides, the FAA certificates it holds, the approximate number of its employees, its annual gross revenue, its experience with SMS, the sufficiency of existing guidance on SMS, the costs of establishing SMS, how small businesses can apply SMS, and others.

The FAA intends to establish an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to assess comments resulting from this ANPRM and to provide recommendations for any SMS rulemaking effort. After review of the public comments and the ARC recommendations, the FAA may issue a notice of proposed rulemaking proposing specific regulations or regulatory amendments to create an SMS rule. Interested persons would have an additional opportunity to comment if and when the proposed rule is issued.

Please contact your SGR counsel or one of the authors if you are interested in filing public comments on the FAA advance notice of proposed rulemaking or if you have questions about how this potential rule might affect your company or industry.

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