What is a safety management system?

    A safety management system (SMS) helps a company identify safety risks before they become bigger problems. SMS focuses on ways of improving the safety of the aviation system. Transport Canada regulations require the aviation industry to put in place SMS as an extra layer of protection. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), safety management systems are considered the global standard. 

    What is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)?

    In 1944 the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as the “Chicago Convention”) was signed by the United Nations. This agreement created the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which coordinates and regulates international air travel. As part of the Convention, ICAO also requires member states to help improve aviation safety around the world. 

    Canada is a founding member of ICAO and we signed on to the Chicago Convention. We also supported the ICAO’s decision to require countries to follow ICAO’s Annex 19, requiring member states to implement safety management systems. Annex 19 also includes international standards and recommended practices for managing safety.

    What are the important elements of SMS?

    • Hazard identification - a way to identify issues
    • Occurrence reporting - a way to share safety data
    • Risk management - a way to assess risks and apply risk controls
    • Performance measurement - management tools that help an organization see if their safety goals are being met
    • Quality and safety assurance - a way to check and improve an organization’s safety performance

    What are the roles and responsibilities within SMS?

    A SMS provides for goal setting, planning, and performance measurement. It focuses on operational or process safety, rather than the conventional health and safety concerns of the workplace. The success of the system hinges on the development of a safety culture within an organization that promotes open reporting, through the adoption of safety reporting policies, and continual improvement through proactive safety assessments.

    Key Components of a SMS:

    ·A Safety Management Plan


    ·Safety Oversight


    ·Quality Assurance (QA)

    ·Emergency Response

    Why is Transport Canada reviewing SMS?

    This represents Transport Canada’s first formal policy review of SMS since it was introduced in 2005. It will help Transport Canada (TC) to identify emerging issues, as well as to ensure that the concepts and principles of SMS balance safety and efficiency without placing an undue burden on an organization. 

    Since the implementation of SMS, Canadian aviation has gained valuable experience and insight. TC is therefore consulting stakeholders in order to confirm that SMS requirements build upon the work of leading safety experts and international bodies such as ICAO.

    The SMS policy review has a number of drivers reinforcing the need to modernize SMS requirements, including the following reports and recommendations:

    • Implementation of ICAO: Annex 19 – Safety Management;
    • Transportation Safety Board (TSB) Watchlist & Recommendations;
    • Office of the Auditor General (OAG): Reports and Findings 2008 & 2012; and
    • Report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (SCOTIC): Aviation Safety in Canada, June 2017;
    • Internal and external irritants that exist in relation to the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

    What is the goal of the SMS policy review?

    The goal of this policy review is to revisit and improve upon SMS in Canadian aviation, since TC’s introduction of SMS regulatory requirements in 2005.

    Key milestones are to:

    • identify opportunities to support innovation and economic growth by addressing unnecessary burden on the aviation industry and the Department alike;
    • consult with aviation stakeholders on the modernization current SMS requirements in the Canadian Aviation Regulations;
    • seek ways to better align with international best practices refine the scope for aviation sectors currently covered in Canada; and
    • propose options for further development and implementation.

    What sectors of the aviation industry are being consulted?

    Transport Canada will consult with sectors that currently have safety management system requirements, namely: 

    ·Airlines (CAR 705)

    ·Approved maintenance organizations for CAR 705s (CAR 573)

    ·Certified aerodromes (CAR 302)

    • Air Navigations Services (CAR 805)
    • Private operators (CAR 604)

    Will you be consulting with aviation stakeholders?

    Yes. Consulting aviation stakeholders is a key part of the policy review. If you’d like to see our consultation plan, please email Transport Canada: SMSreview-SGSexamen@tc.gc.ca.

    Will there be more chances to give feedback?

    Yes. We’ll involve subject matter experts and industry partners at several stages. The issues that are raised through consultations will help us develop targeted consultations in the future.

    Are there other ways to share my views on this policy review?

    Yes, you can share your views any time by emailing Transport Canada: SMSreview-SGSexamen@tc.gc.ca.

    Are you planning to make safety management systems required in other sectors?

    Not yet. Right now we’re focused on modernizing current safety management requirements.

    Does Transport Canada have a timeline for consultations on using safety management systems in other sectors?

    Not yet, however if you would be interested in participating in a consultation on this topic, please email Transport Canada: SMSreview-SGSexamen@tc.gc.ca.