Following a more than two-year process, Delta received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration of the airline's enterprise-wide Safety Management System. The system provides a framework for all employees to monitor, identify and address issues that may impact flight safety as well as employee injury, environmental impact, non-compliance with regulatory requirements, asset damage and damage to the Delta brand.
An effective SMS plan enables Delta to anticipate problems and hazards based on data gathered from everyday operations. And when improvements to operational processes are suggested, the SMS allows Delta to rigorously analyze and evaluate its impact on safety across the entire organization. Broken down into four key focus areas — safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance and safety promotion — Delta's SMS plan allows for a proactive, predictive and data-driven approach to manage safety in the operation while also isolating trends that may be precursors to incidents or accidents.
"Safety has and always will be our top priority and we're committed to making sure we evolve our safety practices and procedures as our operation evolves," said John Laughter, Delta's Senior Vice President – Safety, Security and Compliance. "Receiving the FAA's certification of our Safety Management System validates that Delta people are focused on maintaining and enhancing Delta's culture of safety."
Over the last two years, Delta's safety team, under the direction of Laughter and Tara Kinnick, Manager — Corporate SMS, have undergone system-wide FAA audits aimed at evaluating Delta's compliance within the four pillars. These audits ensure employees know where they can report safety concerns and how those concerns are effectively addressed.
"The Safety Management System is in a constant state of continuous improvement," Kinnick said. "It's based on direct employee feedback and divisional input to operational issues that may pose a safety concern. The success of the SMS lives with every Delta employee." The plan relies on active employee participation in the hazard identification process. Each operational division has systems in place where hazards to customers, employees and equipment can be reported.
"While the FAA requirement focuses on safety of flight, Delta has taken it upon ourselves to extend our focus beyond safety of flight to include every aspect of our operation," Kinnick added.
Delta already leads the U.S. airline industry with the lowest global injury rate but as an organization focused on continuous improvement, Delta committed to reducing the global injury rate by 75 percent in the next five years as it tracks on a path to joining some of the safest companies in the U.S. for employees.
Delta was among the first U.S. carriers to submit its SMS implementation plan to the FAA when it did so in March 2015 and among the first to receive certification.