U.S. Airlines Required to Develop Safety Management Systems under New Rule

Jan 10th, 2015 | By | Category: Health and Safety

EHS Journal - Flying High by James Farmer 1

Most U.S. commercial airlines will be required to have formal Safety Management Systems (SMS) in place by 2018 according to a new final rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on January 7, 2015, requires each air carrier operating under 14 CFR part 121 to develop and implement an SMS to improve the safety of its aviation-related activities. The SMS is intended to be a comprehensive, process-oriented approach to managing safety.

Required SMS elements include

  • an organization-wide safety policy;
  • formal methods for identifying hazards;
  • procedures for controlling and continually assessing risk and safety performance; and
  • promotion of a safety culture.


According to the FAA

This final rule is part of the FAA’s efforts to continuously improve safety in air transportation by filling gaps through improved management practices. SMS’s proactive emphasis on hazard identification and mitigation, and on communication of safety issues, will provide air carriers with robust tools to improve safety.

A “hazard” in the context of this rule is considered to be a “condition that could foreseeably cause or contribute to an aircraft accident as defined in 49 CFR 830.2.”


Key Dates

The final rule becomes effective March 9, 2015. Organizations that are subject to the rule must submit an implementation plan to the FAA Administrator for review no later than September 9, 2015, and the implementation plan must be approved no later than March 9, 2016. An SMS that meets the requirements of the rule and is acceptable to the Administrator must be completed by January 8, 2018.

According to the Federal Register notice, “the implementation plan may include any of the certificate holder’s existing programs, policies, or procedures that it intends to use to meet the requirements of this part, including components of an existing SMS.”


More Information

This article was drawn from the FAA’s SMS press release and Final Rule published in the Federal Register.

Photograph: Flying High by James Farmer, Soka, Japan.


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