First Contract Complete – Review and Learning Points

Amazing experience! I could only have dreamt that the first contract won by THI-SMS would be extended from the original six to a total of fifteen months, but that’s what happened! Brought in to review and update the safety documentation to comply with Military Aviation Authority (MAA) regulations, it became clear within days that the Trials Evaluation Services and Target (TEST) Team needed a full Safety Management System. How would I convince the Team Leader, a very experienced engineer in an organisation under pressure to reduce Manpower Substitution, that a Safety Management System was exactly what he needed? Simple….flipcharts, diagrams, strategic thinking and of course the logic that there was no alternative if he was to receive the assurance information he needed. To be fair, the Team Leader is one of the finest people I have had the pleasure to meet. Logical, highly intelligent, extremely hard working and, I’m glad to say, totally on board with Safety.

So, what did we achieve? Most notably we won the respect of the MAA with the successful closure of 14 of the 18 Non Compliance Reports (NCRs) levied against the TEST Team. The remaining 4 NCRs are awaiting external input and should be closed within months. The creation of two safety meetings to cover both the Airworthiness/Air Safety and the Range/Ordnance/HSW/Environmental Protection responsibilities, with carefully crafted agenda’s and a Quorum list of Sufficiently Qualified and Experienced Personnel (SQEP) the Team Leader now has ultimate confidence that safety information is being duly gathered, analysed, trended and that as much proactive activity as is reasonably practicable is being carried out.

The Team Leader has information at his finger tips regarding Safety Assessments (Safety Case Reports as was), when ageing aircraft audits are due, when critical safety documents such as Certificates of Safety for Ordnance and Munitions are due for review. However, is this enough? Does the Team Leader trust all the information being presented to him? He could as the company under contract to provide the capability are considered to be a ‘Competent Organisation’. However, when presented with a draft audit schedule to take an independent look at such things as Hazard Identification, Management Commitment, Risk Management, Human Factors training etc, he decided to conduct a year long trial. Already the Risk Management Audits have provided amazing assurance information, recommendations to the Competent Organisation for improvement, and of course the essential audit trail to present to the MAA when they next visit.

The Safety Team have updated documentation, clever configuration control traffic light systems to ensure regular reviews take place, updated Terms of Reference, training plans to achieve full SQEP status and a meeting and audit schedule (with an essential audit bank) to keep them suitably challenged and valid. There have been so many learning points, not least the reminder that it is ALWAYS better to have face-to-face discussions rather than email. When implementing change, particularly with personnel who have been in post for a long time, it’s so vital for their voices to be heard! As clever and comprehensive you think that email may be, if it can be taken the wrong way, it will be!

So, on to the next challenge. What’s next?