A Safety Management System (SMS) is a systematic approach to managing safety in aviation and other safety critical industries. Airlines that implement an SMS are able to identify and mitigate safety risks that they are exposed to during their day-to-day operation, ultimately improving safety performance.

IATA SMS Strategy Outcomes

Recognizing the importance of establishing an effective SMS, IATA has developed an SMS Strategy to ensure the benefits are maximized. Consisting of three strategic pillars, we have defined the following outcomes that will be supported by action plans:

 airline capability iata capability SMS Promotion - Global Influence

 Air operators have the tools they need to build and enhance their Safety Management Systems, incorporating data management that encourages ongoing improvement.  

 Enhanced SMS competency that enables IATA to provide consolidated regional/global risk pictures, including current and emerging safety issues to support targeted safety improvement activities across the industry.  

 We influence SMS practices and standards setting globally to reflect the needs of our members.  

SMS – Tools for Implementation


When building a management system, there are several important aspects to consider, such as setting goals, developing implementation plans, documenting processes, and evaluating performance. To make the most out of SMS, it's crucial to grasp the key basic concepts to promoting safer and smooth operations across the industry. An effective SMS will not only support the delivery of safety objectives but increase operational resilience.

To assist airlines in maintaining and evolving their SMS and in support of our SMS Strategy, IATA has collated together useful tools, guidance material and practical examples. This material can be found below, conveniently divided into the four pillars of the SMS framework:

Focuses on establishing an environment that enables effective safety management. It is founded on a safety policy outlining your organization's commitment to managing safety. It normally includes:

  • Safety Objectives and priorities,
  • Senior management/Accountable Executive’s commitment and safety leadership,
  • The Organizational structure and resources to meet safety goals, and
  • The safety responsibility and accountability at every level within the organization.

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SMS Documentation

To facilitate internal administration, communication, and maintenance of the Safety Management System, it is required to have a top-level "SMS manual" that describes SMS policies, processes, and procedures. This document will help personnel understand how the SMS operates and how it is linked to the organization’s safety goals.

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Recommended Training


It involves systematic activities to identify hazards, assess, control, and mitigate operational risk.

Hazard Identification

Effective hazard identification requires a structured safety data collection and management approach to produce insights and gain intelligence from an aviation organization's operation and internal process performance.

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Risk Assessment and Mitigation

The next step is to determine and implement a structured approach to assess the risk that involves evaluating potential risks the organization is exposed to, defining the acceptable risk level for an organization, implementing further controls to mitigate risks, or removing redundant controls.

Using statistical data and expert input, risk assessment helps allocate resources to control and mitigate potential consequences.

The risk assessment evolution involves using statistical data distribution functions to estimate probabilities of potential consequences. A robust approach to risk assessment utilizes a combination of data sources and subject matter expertise enabling data-driven decisions on resource allocation to control and mitigate risks.

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IATA Training

Risk Management is at the core of Safety Management Systems. It is a fundamental process to ensure the SMS Works as expected.  Specific training on Safety Risk Assessment has been designed and delivered by IATA.

Recommended Training

It ensures that an organization’s safety performance is aligned with its safety goals and that the risk controls are effective.

Safety Performance Monitoring and Measurement

Proactively monitoring safety performance using tailored safety performance indicators is crucial for effectively mitigating risk. These safety performance indicators measure the effectiveness of safety risk controls in preventing undesirable safety outcomes.

The safety performance monitoring process should utilize various safety data such as incident investigations, reporting systems, reliability program reports, training records, safety audit results, etc.

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The Management of Change 

A regular process that identifies changes within an aviation organization that may have a safety impact on established processes and services. It involves creating, modifying, or eliminating safety risk controls due to changes in the operational environment.

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Continuous Improvement of the SMS

The ongoing process to identify issues affecting the Safety Management System performance, determine the implications of sub-standard performance in operations, and eliminate such causes.

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Recommended Training

Focuses on sharing safety trends, knowledge, good practices, success stories, and lessons learned, aiming to increase safety awareness, change behaviors, and create a positive safety culture while encouraging staff participation in maximizing SMS performance.

Safety promotional activities should also include the delivery of a training program that ensures everyone is competent to discharge their safety responsibilities.

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