Aviation Safety Management System: Selecting SPIs

Mario Pierobon continues his discussion of Safety Performance Indicators in relation to a Flight Department updating its Safety Management System. Here, he highlights how to select and define SPIs, and how to distinguish indicators from targets...

Mario Pierobon  |  24th April 2023
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Mario Pierobon
Mario Pierobon

Mario Pierobon holds a Master’s Degree in Air Transportation Management from City University London,...

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Which Safety Performance Indicators are core to your flight ops?

Over the last several months, we’ve covered continuous improvement, safety communication, and Safety Performance Indicators (SPI) as essential items that define implementation of a Safety Management System within a flight department.

Having established what SPIs are and how they work, exploring both ‘lagging’ and ‘leading’ indicators, we will now review how to select and define SPIs and how to establish necessary safety targets.

Safety Performance Indicators: How to Select & Define Them

According to ICAO Doc 9859, SPIs should be related to the safety objective they aim to indicate, and selected or developed on the basis of available data and reliable measurements. SPIs should be specific, quantifiable and realistic, considering the possibilities and constraints of the Flight Department.

“SPIs are the parameters that provide the organization with a view of its safety performance: where it has been; where it is now; and where it is headed, in relation to safety,” according to ICAO Doc 9859. “This picture acts as a solid and defensible foundation upon which the organization’s data-driven safety decisions are made.

These decisions, in turn, positively affect the organization’s safety performance. The identification of SPIs should therefore be realistic, relevant, and linked to safety objectives, regardless of their simplicity or complexity.”

There should be a clear link between lagging SPIs (the safety outcome orientated ones) and leading SPIs (the precursor orientated ones). Ideally, lagging SPIs should be defined before determining leading SPIs. Defining a precursor SPI linked to a more serious event or condition [the lagging SPI] helps to ensure there is a clear correlation.

Having SPIs that are well defined and aligned makes it easier to identify Safety Performance Targets (SPTs), which will show the progress being made towards the attainment of safety objectives, according to ICAO Doc 9859.

The ‘mapping’ of SPIs enables the Flight Department to apportion safety resources more effectively because such use of SPIs creates a kind of ‘dashboard’ which allows Flight Departments to know accurately what the needs are, and how and when they should act to obtain the safety performance target.

Several software applications, including commercial off-the-shelf ones, are available to allow this kind of SPI mapping.

SPIs should have a clear description of what they measures, their purpose (what do you intend to manage and who will it inform?), the units of measurement, and any requirements for calculation.

It’s also necessary to know who’s responsible for collecting, validating, monitoring, reporting, and acting on the SPIs, where or how the data should be collected, and the frequency of reporting, collecting, monitoring and analysis of the SPI data, ICAO Doc 9859 highlights.

Changes in operational practices may lead to underreporting until their impact is fully accepted by potential reporters, according to ICAO Doc 9859, which adds: “Changes in the provisions related to the protection of safety information and related sources could also lead to over-reporting. In both cases, reporting bias may distort the intent and accuracy of the data used for the SPI.

“Employed judiciously, safety reporting may still provide valuable data for the management of safety performance.”

Next, you’ll need to know how to differentiate between Safety Performance Indicators and Targets when it comes to updating your flight department safety management system. Click on the button below to continue reading this article in the AvBuyer April digital edition.

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