State safety programme in The Netherlands, contribution from The Netherlands
Annex 19, together with the updated ICAO ‘Safety Management Manual’ (Doc 9859, edition 4), demonstrate the importance attached to safety management by both governments and aviation service providers. ICAO’s definition of safety is to “know all risks and mitigate these risks to an acceptable level of safety”. This requires an active role of organisations and their safety managers, as well as the governments.
ICAO requires all its Member States to have an State Safety Programme, hereinafter abbreviated as SSP. Such an SSP has to be structured in accordance with Annex 19, reflecting the way of dealing with safety management in each Member State. An SSP is the primary responsibility of government. Aviation service providers are responsible for their own safety management systems (hereinafter abbreviated as SMS). The four blocks of an SSP have the same names as the four blocks of an SMS, although the sub-paragraphs are different.
The overarching motto of the Dutch SSP is ‘Building bridges together’, where both government authorities and aviation service providers work together on continuous improvement of SSPs and SMSs, respecting each other’s responsibilities.
There are many ways of drawing up an SSP and of involving the aviation service providers. In The Netherlands we worked along the lines described below when working on the second edition of our SSP.
Before starting the writing process on the second edition of our SSP, the policy department of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management embarked on a ‘tour’ along many safety managers in the Dutch aviation domain, working in pairs. The teams were all well aware of both operational issues (having practical experience with flying themselves), as well as legal issues and had extensive experience in the various domains of aviation. As such, they were able to speak the same language as the safety managers of the aviation industry.
The industry tour was conducted with a view to getting to know each other better and asking industry both for fair and frank feedback on their experience with the first edition of the Dutch SSP and their expectations for second edition.
Not all of the organisations interviewed had developed their own SMS, in most cases because there was no legal requirement for them to have one, for example in the General Aviation domain. However, at the same time it was also encouraging to find that some of these organizations had taken action, although not legally required, because they saw the safety benefits of an SMS, learning from experiences and occurrence reporting.
The four questions raised by Bill Voss, former President and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, as explained in AeroSafety World of May 2012, were very useful to clarify the essential issues of risk management with a Safety Management System:
- What is most likely to be the cause of your next accident or serious incident?
- How do you know that?
- What are you doing about it?
- Is it working?
- Such questions are generally easily covered, if you have an effective SMS, but impossible to answer if you do not.
Following the tour, work started on drafting the new SSP. The intermediate results were presented in a meeting with representatives of the Dutch aviation industry, both commercial and General Aviation, helicopter operators and drones. The industry subsequently asked the Ministry to organize meetings with the safety managers of similar kind of organisations from other industries, where they could exchange experiences with both the introduction of their SMS as well as how to work with an SMS. These meetings, the so-called domain consultations, were held in a confidential setting. This approach turned out to work well; participants appreciated the opportunity to learn from colleagues in other domains.
Although sometimes being commercial competitors, all participants in the process were devoted to raising aviation safety to the next level.
In practice, the Dutch SSP consists of a main reference document describing who is responsible for what and how to accomplish risk management, oversight and safety promotion, which is accompanied by an SSP Action Plan as a technical operational living document that is regularly updated.