In this new version there is a slight variance in their guidance as it relates to Safety Performance Indicators (SPIs) by providing a more comprehensive direction. In general, SPIs continue to be described as a data-based safety parameter used for monitoring and assessing safety performance. SPIs help organizations to understand the monitoring of known safety risks and the detection of emerging safety risks as well as to determine any necessary corrective actions.The changes in the SMM are summarized below.
In the previous Third Edition, the focus of SPIs by ICAO related to the need for organizations to have a range of high-consequence (accidents or serious incidents) as well as lower-consequence safety performance indicators (minor incidents, nonconformance findings or deviations) to provide a more comprehensive insight into the organization’s safety performance.
ICAO also recommended that high-consequence indicators should be addressed first while lower-consequence indicators may be developed at a later phase of SMS implementation.
However, in the Fourth Edition, ICAO provides a much more in-depth look as it relates to SPIs. ICAO first identifies the two most common categories used to classify SPIs as being lagging or leading types. Lagging SPIs measure events that have already occurred (also referred to as “Outcome-Based SPIs”).
In contrast, leading SPIs measure processes and inputs being implemented to improve or maintain safety (also referred to as “Activity or Process SPIs”). It states that lagging SPIs help organizations understand what has happened in the past and are useful for long-term trending. Because they measure safety outcomes, lagging SPIs can measure the effectiveness of safety mitigations.
ICAO helps to further expand on lagging SPIs with the classification of two types:
- Low Probability/High Severity: Outcomes such as accidents or serious incidents. The small volume of high severity outcomes means that the compiling of data may result in more meaningful analyses. An example given for this type of lagging SPI would be “aircraft and/or engine damage due to bird strike.”
- High Probability/Low Severity: Outcomes that did not necessarily manifest themselves into a serious accident or incident, these are sometimes also referred to as precursor indicators. SPIs for high probability/low severity outcomes are primarily used to monitor specific safety issues and measure the effectiveness of existing safety risk mitigations. An example given for this of precursor SPI would be “bird radar detections,” which indicates the level of bird activity rather than the amount of actual bird strikes.
For leading SPIs, ICAO specifies that they are measures that focus on the organization’s processes and inputs that are being implemented to improve or maintain safety. These monitor conditions that have the potential to become or to contribute to a specific outcome.
ICAO also advises that leading SPIs may also inform the organization about how their operation copes with change. The focus will be either on anticipating weaknesses and vulnerabilities as a result of the change or monitoring the performance after a change.
It is important to select SPIs that relate to the organization’s safety objectives and encompass all functional areas (i.e. not just flight operations). For a more accurate and useful indication of safety performance, ICAO recommends that organizations use a mix of lagging SPIs, measuring both “low probability/high severity” events and “high probability/low severity” events, in combination with leading SPIs.
Figure 1, to the left, shows an example from ICAO demonstrating the links between lagging and leading indicators.
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