While the principles of SMS are not new, there are many misunderstandings about SMS, especially in distinguishing safety management systems for product/service providers and regulators.
Please see below to help dispel some of these myths.
What are the most common misconceptions about SMS for product/service providers?
What are the most common misconceptions about SMS for regulators?
SMS is not just a new "buzzword" to replace "system safety." To the contrary, SMS applies system safety concepts and adds formal system safety management concepts. It creates an avenue for a more effective interface between product/service providers and their oversight organizations. SMS is, thus, the next logical step in system safety evolution.
SMS will not require a separate safety department. While larger organizations may have specialist personnel such as a Director of Safety, safety and quality auditors and analysts, investigators, etc., in the same manner that they may now employ accountants, attorneys, or other specialists in financial and business management, a Safety Management System is a set of management practices rather than a requirement for an additional organizational "layer" or "stovepipe." SMS focuses on functional expectations by operational departments; therefore resource allocation should be appropriate for the size of the organization. SMS Pilot Project Participants have found that SMS resources are critical to successfully champion SMS development and implementation.
SMS will not require a Quality Management System (QMS). See the discussion on Quality and Safety Management for differentiation of the two concepts and applications. If an organization has a QMS, it should not conflict with the SMS.
SMS will not require an ASAP (Aviation Safety Action Program). Voluntary Employee Reporting programs are a requirement for an SMS, but no specific program is specified.
An SMS does not rescind our responsibility as regulator. While we feel that a positive, proactive relationship with product/service providers is preferable to an adversarial, legalistic stance, we must and will maintain our position of providing effective safety oversight. What an SMS will give us in this area is a clear set of requirements for product/service providers to demonstrate their safety management capability. However, the importance of meeting technical standards will still be emphasized and the FAA will continue to validate product/service providers' attainment of them.
An SMS is not a means of outsourcing FAA work or of diminishing the status of FAA Technical Workforce. In an increasingly large and complex aviation system, the FAA will always need inspectors, engineers, flight test pilots, and other technical employees. We do not envision a scenario where either numbers or required expertise of the technical workforce can be decreased without decreasing oversight effectiveness. What SMS will give us is a framework to work with industry to increase safety management effectiveness and to allow FAA to better prioritize resources. Moreover, if anything, competencies required in the areas of safety analysis, system evaluation, and risk assessment will elevate inspector knowledge and skill needs. This will also make it incumbent on the agency to provide the necessary training to upgrade the skills of our workforce.
SMS is not interchangeable with FAA Oversight Systems. Both oversight systems and product/service providers' SMSs will be part of FAA's comprehensive safety management approach. Oversight systems are the FAA's means of meeting our responsibility for safety assurance of the air transportation system. On the other hand, the operator's SMS will be a formal means for product/service providers to demonstrate their management capability to meet their statutory obligation to operate, "at the highest level of safety in the public interest." While both oversight systems and product/service provider SMSs will be highly complementary and interactive, they are both separate and essential components of the FAA safety management strategy.