Defining Meaningful Safety Performance Indicators

Safety performance indicators within management systems are useful tools for allowing an organisation to measure progress – and continuous improvement – of safety topics. This is as true for airlines and airports as it is for national oversight bodies. Although these indicators are extremely useful, regulatory guidance on how best to develop truly meaningful safety performance indicators is limited.

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Tracking, analysing, preventing

There is, of course, very good reason to be especially diligent when defining meaningful performance indicators within safety management systems, or SMS. Using only standard high-level measurements for performance management makes it impossible to understand risks in enough detail to be able to take effective measures against them.

Because safety performance indicators are meant for tracking, analysing and ultimately preventing safety incidents, a lack of detailed and meaningful measurements for the specific risks is dangerous. The diversity of safety hazards only highlights the importance of being proactive in determining which performance indicators will help an airport, airline or aviation authority understand whether current policies and procedures are effective mitigative actions.

In our whitepaperDefining Meaningful Performance Indicators,’ we discuss the reasons for combining high-consequence, reactive indicators with the more proactive lower-consequence indicators. Measurements that are too high-level and reactive do not prevent serious incidents.

Combating bird strike risks

A good example of the type of risk that is often insufficiently measured to be able to mitigate it adequately is bird strikes. A single high-consequence indicator representing the number of serious bird strike incidents provides no information about what an airport is doing to prevent them, and is thus wholly reactive, not proactive.

Instead, any safety plan involving maintenance should be proactively measured on non-conformities. A more meaningful performance indicator for bird strikes, for example, would be the measurement of the planned courses of action established to help mitigate bird strike risks. Detailed performance targets for fauna management are set and the performance indicators measure the effectiveness of those actions.

The hazard from solitary birds of prey is not the same as from flocks of birds, so relevant actions must be planned to help avoid the specific types of bird strike possibilities.

Measuring for proactive mitigation

Performance indicators are meant to help organisation track whether safety management systems actually prevent an increase in high-consequence, reactive indicators. The well-defined performance indicator also examines detailed elements of the measures that have been put in place to mitigate the safety hazard.

On a final note, it is important that airports, airlines and national aviation authorities ensure that relevant departments all share performance data with safety and quality assurance departments. This helps them present useful safety information to management, who can then steer the organisation more effectively based on performance to meaningful targets.

For more on this topic, click here to download the whitepaper:

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