What is safety audit?

Safety auditing is a core safety management activity, providing a means of identifying potential problems before they have an impact on safety. Audit means a systematic and independent examination conducted by, or on behalf of, a authority to determine whether complete safety-related arrangements or elements thereof, related to processes and their results, products or services, comply with required safety-related arrangements and whether they are implemented effectively and are suitable to achieve expected results. Safety audits are conducted in order to assess the degree of compliance with the applicable safety regulatory requirements and with the procedural provisions of a Safety Management System if one is in place. They are intended to provide assurance of the safety management functions, including staffing, compliance with applicable regulations, levels of competency and training.

Auditing examines each stage in the management system of a company by measuring compliance with the controls; the organisation has developed, with the ultimate aim of assessing their effectiveness and their validity for the future. The audit consists of two parts. The first is intended to provide a simple overview of progress in terms of time. The second is intended to expand on the information provided in the first part by giving reasons as to why any missed deadlines were not met, detailing any benefits gained by the activities undertaken in the time period covered by the plan, and including any other relevant information that will assist in drawing up the plan for the next few months.

Safety audits and safety surveys should be used by the aviation service providers to assess the level of compliance with the applicable regulatory framework and the organisational SMS processes and procedures, to verify the effectiveness of such processes and procedures and to identify corrective measures if needed. Planning of the audits should take into account the safety significance of the processes to be audited and the results of previous audits. According to ICAO Doc 9774 – Manual on Certification of Aerodromes, an aerodrome operator should arrange for an audit of the aerodrome SMS, including an inspection of the aerodrome facilities and equipment. For conducting such a large scale safety audit “the aerodrome operator should also arrange an external audit for the evaluation of aerodrome users, including aircraft operators, ground handling agencies and other organizations” operating at the aerodrome.