Leadership, Management and Safety: Embracing Compliance and Conformance Oversight

Louis A. Sorrentino III

By Louis A. Sorrentino III
CEO & Managing Director, Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International

Posted on February 7, 2024
fingers pointing in multiple directions

Aviation operations, and by default, safety, are based on the idea that regulatory requirements are fundamental to establishing a framework to achieve safe operations.

However, regulations do not guarantee safety! That is why voluntary standards and best practices continue to emerge as aviation operations become more complex and intertwined with other operators and environments.

The fundamental reason we investigate accidents, incidents, quality escapes and near-misses is to determine the root cause so that corrective action and mitigations can be developed, implemented and validated to ensure the “event” or “quality escape” does not occur again. There is a symbiotic relationship between events and best practices, as history has proven the former begets the latter.

Recent Failures and the Focus on Leadership

Within aviation, there have been numerous recent events where quality, quality assurance and safety have been tested and, in many cases, failed. Like other industries where failure is not an option, the words oversight, quality system oversight (formal auditing enhanced by ongoing surveillance) and internal audit (internal evaluation program or IEP) have taken on an entirely new meaning among enlightened managers, forward-thinking operational professionals and the public at large. When the people begin questioning our ability to self-regulate quality and ensure safety, faith in our systems and, dare I say it, leadership comes to the forefront.

We look to leadership to lead and management to manage, which, as active verbs, should inspire action. Regrettably, leadership can be shortsighted and unaware of the formidable tools available to identify hazards, resultant risks and compliance or conformance issues that may impact performance and quality assurance.

Additionally, leadership may not have the training, proper experience or awareness to lead and manage effectively. Often, they are entirely unaware of the tools at their fingertips and their full value if used effectively.

QM and SM: Delivering Critical Benefits

Organizations that have embraced quality management (QM) and safety management (SM) systems benefit from these most effective diagnostic tools applicable to all of aviation, from air carriers to airports, ground handlers/FBOs to airframe (OEM) and component manufacturers and repair facilities (MROs).

If your company is ISO-accredited, an IS-BAO/BAH-registered operator or IOSA-registered, the terms quality management and safety management are well known.

For this article, we are focusing on leadership and its ability to manage as a means to evaluate compliance and conformance to its stated regulatory and company operational goals, objectives and standards, respectively. The word “standards” will encompass company policy and procedures as well as regulatory standards you are required to comply with.

Quality Systems and Oversight Defined

So, what are quality systems and quality system oversight? For the best description, we turn to the European Commission’s civil aviation regulations, commonly known as EU-OPS 1 (formally JAR–OPS). EU-OPS 1.035 states that a quality system shall be established by an operator “to monitor compliance with, and adequacy of, procedures required to ensure safe operational practices and airworthy aeroplanes. Compliance monitoring must include a feed-back system to the accountable manager (see also OPS 1.175 (h)) to ensure corrective action as necessary.” “The quality system must include a quality assurance programme that contains procedures designed to verify that all operations are being conducted in accordance with all applicable requirements, standards, and procedures.”

For those operators with a quality system in place, such as the one outlined in EU OPS 1.035, you could assume that the operator oversees the technical functions that support flight or maintenance operations. Going one step further, OPS 1.175(h) states, “The operator must have nominated an accountable manager acceptable to the Authority who has corporate authority for ensuring that all operations and maintenance activities can be financed and carried out to the standard required by the Authority.” This statement predicates that the accountable manager has the responsibility and accountability to ensure that everything can be financed and carried out to the standard required by the authority.

These tools become the most effective means to determine an operator’s level of compliance when applied to the regulations it operates to and conformance to company-mandated policies, procedures or processes it has developed.

But leaders and managers must understand, embrace, finance and mandate by policy that these tools are to be fully implemented. Then and only then do they become a leader’s most effective insight into the health of the organization’s safety and quality performance. Leaders must demonstrate accountability by providing clarity of the task at hand, commitment to providing the necessary resources to meet the objective and, most importantly, courage to lead and direct to meet stated goals, objectives, and expectations.

Leadership Engagement Is Essential

Today’s operating environment demands engaged leaders to resource and direct quality/safety programs with well-thought-out policies, procedures, accountabilities and responsibilities. These are often memorialized in an organization’s safety and quality policies, goals, objectives and even mission statements. If you think your programs are comprehensive, you may wish to test them via a two-pronged approach:

  1. A safety/quality all-employee survey
  2. An independent safety/quality system evaluation

The results of these inquiries will be enlightening.

The benefits derived from effective leadership and management of the organization’s safety and quality oversight programs will be extremely valuable to your customers, employees and shareholders. It may also keep you out of the news!

Quality system oversight is the most effective tool enabling executive leadership to determine the operation’s health in real time. For systems like quality (QMS) and safety (SMS) management to perform as intended, leaders must lead, and management must actively manage these programs. Without active, engaged management, you have to ask yourself this question: Are we that good or just that lucky?

Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International
AvMaSSI provides safety, security and operational integrity evaluations, consulting and auditing to airlines, airports, charter and corporate operators, OEMs, marine operators, seaports, governments, international agencies and financial institutions the world over. AvMaSSI provides IS-BAO and IS-BAH preparation and audit services and supports Global Aerospace and its SM4 and Vista Elite Programs with focused safety/SMS, security, regulatory compliance and IS-BAO auditing services. AvMaSSI is a proud member of the Global Aerospace SM4 partnership program.

© 2024 Aviation & Marine Safety Solutions International. All Rights Reserved.

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