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Safety Management Terminology

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Category: Safety Management Safety Management
Content source: Safety Management International Collaboration Group (SM ICG) Safety Management International Collaboration Group (SM ICG)
Content control: Safety Management International Collaboration Group (SM ICG) Safety Management International Collaboration Group (SM ICG)


The purpose of this paper is to provide a common set of safety management related terms and definitions for use by the civil aviation community and to assist in effective communication and safety information sharing.


Service providers and civil aviation authorities both need to manage risk, although the nature and scope of the hazards may be different. For example, while a service provider may identify hazards specific to its unique organization, a civil aviation authority may be identifying hazards from emerging trends across an entire aviation system, based on aggregate data from multiple service providers’ safety management systems. Thus, in order to allow managers in any type of organization to make decisions based on risk, these organizations must possess and analyze safety data in order to identify hazards that exist in their systems. Consequently, utilizing common terminology and definitions is essential for aggregating this data.


While considering the need for organizations to collect, share, aggregate and share safety information, SM ICG members decided that it was necessary to agree on a set of safety management related terms and definitions for them. The SM ICG utilized its own and outside expertise to identify pertinent safety management related terms and definitions. These terms and definitions were developed through a detailed and deliberate process.

The process included the following steps:

  1. Research utilizing various sources to identify safety management related terms:
    1. SM ICG member content published in English:
      • U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
      • European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
      • International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
      • Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA)
      • Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ)
      • Civil Aviation Safety Agency (CASA) of Australia
      • Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC), Brazil
      • Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), Switzerland
      • Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile (DGAC), France
      • United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA)
    2. Numerous other aviation safety management sources including:
      • Eurocontrol
      • Flight Safety Foundation (FSF),
      • SKYbrary
  2. Identification of over 600 safety management-related terms from these international sources
  3. Development of an expert based process for selection of terms
  4. Comparison of safety management terminologies from these various sources, from which a small group of SM ICG experts selected key terms
  5. All members of the SM ICG reviewed the selected terms and agreed up on a final list.
  6. The SM ICG developed an initial standardized terminology set with one or more definitions for each term was developed. These definitions were either a direct copy, based on other definitions or were new definitions.
  7. Extensive review, modification and refinement of the definitions by small group of experts within SM ICG.
  8. Further review, modification and refinement of the definitions by all members of SM ICG.
  9. After several iterations the final definitions were accepted by SM ICG.

The caveats for the selection of terminology was that it was restricted to English language terminology used in civil aviation State Safety Programs (SSP) and Safety Management Systems (SMS). Also, the group agreed that if a term is defined in an ICAO Annex, then that takes precedence and will be the selected definition for the term. Furthermore, the group attempted to develop clear, unambiguous, authoritative definitions.

In conclusion, this paper documents the terminology list that the SM ICG has agreed upon as the most pertinent for safety management and includes updated definitions taken from the second edition of ICAO Annex 19. The SM ICG encourages all its members and the civil aviation community to strive to use these terms and definitions in their safety management related activities.

Safety Management Terminology

# Term Definition Source Notes
1 Acceptable Level of Safety Performance The minimum level of safety performance of civil aviation in a State, as defined in its State Safety Program, or of a service provider, as defined in its Safety Management System, expressed in terms of safety performance targets and safety performance indicators.

Note.— An acceptable level of safety performance for the State can be achieved through the implementation and maintenance of the SSP as well as safety performance indicators and targets showing that safety is effectively managed and, built on the foundation of implementation of existing safety-related SARPs.

SM ICG Definition from SM ICG and note from ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
2 Acceptable Risk The level of risk that individuals or groups are willing to accept given the benefits gained. Each organization will have its own acceptable risk level, which is derived from its legal and regulatory compliance responsibilities, its threat profile, and its business/organizational drivers and impacts. SM ICG Adapted from Public Health Encyclopedia, Daniel Krewski, and Shon Harris, Risk Management Guide
3 Accident An occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which, in the case of a manned aircraft, takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until such time as all such persons have disembarked, or in the case of an unmanned aircraft, takes place between the time the aircraft is ready to move with the purpose of flight until such time as it comes to rest at the end of the flight and the primary propulsion system is shut down, in which:
  1. a person is fatally or seriously injured as a result of:
    • being in the aircraft, or
    • direct contact with any part of the aircraft, including parts which have become detached from the aircraft, or
    • direct exposure to jet blast,
    except when the injuries are from natural causes, self-inflicted or inflicted by other persons, or when the injuries are to stowaways hiding outside the areas normally available to the passengers and crew; or
  2. the aircraft sustains damage or structural failure which:
    • adversely affects the structural strength, performance or flight characteristics of the aircraft, and
    • would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component,
    except for engine failure or damage, when the damage is limited to a single engine, (including its cowlings or accessories), to propellers, wing tips, antennas, probes, vanes, tires, brakes, wheels, fairings, panels, landing gear doors, windscreens, the aircraft skin (such as small dents or puncture holes), or for minor damages to main rotor blades, tail rotor blades, landing gear, and those resulting from hail or bird strike (including holes in the radome); or
  3. the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible.

Note 1.— For statistical uniformity only, an injury resulting in death within thirty days of the date of the accident is classified, by ICAO, as a fatal injury. Note 2.— An aircraft is considered to be missing when the official search has been terminated and the wreckage has not been located. Note 3.— The type of unmanned aircraft system to be investigated is addressed in 5.1 of Annex 13. Note 4.– Guidance for the determination of aircraft damage can be found in Attachment E of Annex 13. Also see Incident, Occurrence.

ICAO Annex 13
4 Accountable Executive A single, identifiable person having final responsibility for the effective and efficient performance of an organization’s SMS. Depending on the organization’s size and complexity, the Accountable Executive may be: a) the Chief Executive Officer (CEO); b) the Board of Directors’ Chairperson; c) a partner; d) the proprietor; or other top management official. ICAO 9859
5 Aeroplane A power-driven heavier-than-air aircraft, deriving its lift in flight chiefly from aerodynamic reactions on surfaces which remain fixed under given conditions of flight. Also spelled Airplane. ICAO Annex 6
6 Aircraft Any machine that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air other than the reactions of the air against the earth’s surface. ICAO Annex 6
7 Alert Level An established level or criteria value outside of the normal operating range or out-of-control region that triggers a warning that an adjustment or evaluation is needed. SM ICG
8 Aviation System The people, organizations, equipment, technology, and regulatory environment that interact to enable the development, production, operation, maintenance, and training associated with aircraft and aircraft components. SM ICG
9 Best Practice A method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. Business Dictionary http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/best-practice.html
10 Consequence Actual or potential impact of a hazard that can be expressed qualitatively and/or quantitatively. More than one consequence may evolve from an event. SM ICG Adapted from EASA CRD 2009-02c
11 Corrective Action Action to eliminate the cause of or reduce the effects of a detected hazard or potentially hazardous situation in order to prevent its recurrence. SM ICG Adapted from FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 120-92a Appendix 1
12 Emergency Response Plan A written approach addressing the organizational structure, external/internal systems, responsible parties and their roles, communication procedures, safety, equipment, and actions to be taken in reacting to an occurrence, to ensure that there is an orderly and efficient transition from normal to emergency operations. SM ICG Adapted from ICAO 9859
13 Error Non-intentional action or inaction by a person that may lead to deviations from accepted procedures or regulations. SM ICG
14 Failure The inability of a system, subsystem, component, or part to perform its required function within specified limits, under specified conditions for a specified duration. FAA Safety Handbook, Appendix A
15 Gap Analysis A technique that assists in identifying the disparity between the current and the desired future state. SM ICG
16 Hazard A condition or an object with the potential to cause or contribute to an aircraft incident or accident. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
17 Hazard Analysis Analysis performed to identify hazards, hazard effects, and hazard causal factors used to determine system risk. SM ICG Adapted from Hazard Analysis Techniques for System Safety - Clifton A. Ericson, 2005
18 Hazard Identification A process to establish a list of hazards relevant to the activity and the causes/threats that could release them. SM ICG
19 Helicopter A heavier-than-air aircraft supported in flight chiefly by the reactions of the air on one or more power-driven rotors on substantially vertical axes. Note - Some States use the term “rotorcraft” as an alternative to “helicopter”. ICAO Annex 6, Part III
20 High Risk Unacceptable level of risk. The activity cannot be continued unless hazards are further mitigated so that risk is reduced to an acceptable level. SM ICG Adapted from FAA System Safety Handbook, Chapter 3
21 Human Factors Principles which apply to aeronautical design, certification, training, operations and maintenance and which seek safe interface between the human and other system components by proper consideration to human performance. ICAO Annex 6, Part I, Definitions
22 Incident An occurrence other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft, which affects or could affect the safety of operation. See also Accident, Occurrence. ICAO Annex 13
23 Industry Codes of Practice Guidance material developed by an industry body, for a particular sector of the aviation industry to comply with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Standards and Recommended Practices, other aviation safety requirements and the best practices deemed appropriate.

Note.— Some States accept and reference industry codes of practice in the development of regulations to meet the requirements of Annex 19, and make available, for the industry codes of practice, their sources and how they may be obtained.

ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
24 Investigation A process conducted for the purpose of accident prevention which includes the gathering and analysis of information, the drawing of conclusions, including the determination of causes and, when appropriate, the making of safety recommendations. ICAO Annex 13
25 Latent Conditions Existing conditions in the system that can be triggered by an event or a set of events whose adverse consequences may lie dormant. SM ICG Adapted from Airport Cooperative Research Program Report 1, Vol. 2
26 Level of Safety The degree of safety of a system. A measurement of the effectiveness of a system’s safety based on the probability of tolerable incidents that can occur. SM ICG Adapted from ICAO 9859 Section 6.4.6
27 Likelihood The frequency, in quantitative or qualitative terms, that an unsafe event may occur. SM ICG
28 Likelihood - Extremely Improbable Almost inconceivable that the event will occur. ICAO 9859
29 Likelihood - Frequent Likely to occur many times. ICAO 9859
30 Likelihood - Improbable Very unlikely to occur. ICAO 9859
31 Likelihood - Occasional Likely to occur sometimes. ICAO 9859
32 Likelihood - Remote Unlikely, but may possibly occur. UK CAA Safety Regulation Group (SRG)
33 Low Risk A level of risk in which the identified hazards are not usually required to be actively managed, but are documented. SM ICG Adapted from FAA AC 150/5200-37
34 Management of Change Managing the implementation of change in an organization in a planned and communicative manner to minimize any negative consequences and maximize the opportunities presented. A synonym for Change Management. CASA 3
35 Medium Risk A level of risk that may be acceptable with review by the appropriate authority, but tracking and management are required. SM ICG Adapted from FAA AC 150/5200-37
36 Occurrence An accident or incident or other undesired safety-related event. SM ICG Adapted from CAST/ ICAO Common Taxonomy Team http://intlaviationstandards.org/
37 Open Reporting Culture An organizational perspective that actively encourages effective safety reporting by defining acceptable behavior (often unintended errors) and unacceptable behavior (such as recklessness, violations or sabotage), and provides fair protection to reporters. SM ICG Adapted from ICAO 9859
38 Operational Personnel Personnel involved in aviation activities who are in a position to report safety information. Note — Such personnel include, but are not limited to: flight crews; air traffic controllers; aeronautical station operators; maintenance technicians; aircraft, engines and propellers designers and manufacturers; cabin crews; flight dispatchers; apron personnel, and ground handling personnel. (Annex 13)

Personnel involved in aviation activities who are in a position to report safety information. Note.— Such personnel include, but are not limited to: flight crews; air traffic controllers; aeronautical station operators; maintenance technicians; personnel of aircraft design and manufacturing organizations; cabin crews; flight dispatchers; apron personnel and ground handling personnel. (ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.))

Annex 13/ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.) Added ground handling personnel to ICAO Annex 13 Attachment E
39 Organizational Hazard Hazards which arise from an organization’s policies, priorities and the manner in which work is carried out. SM ICG
40 Oversight A function performed by a regulator that ensures that an aviation organization complies with and uses safety-related standards, requirements, regulations, and associated procedures. This also includes the assessment of an organization’s safety management. SM ICG
41 Performance Based Standards Standards that use a set of performance metrics to determine whether the system is operating in accordance with design expectations. SM ICG Adapted from ICAO 9859, Sec 6.4, Acceptable Level of Safety (ALoS)
42 Predictive Any method that continuously analyzes current and historical information to forecast potential future occurrences. See also Proactive, Reactive. SM ICG
43 Prescriptive Standards Standards that specify methods for complying with safety requirements. SM ICG Adapted from ICAO 9859, Sec 6.4, ALoS.
44 Preventive Action Preemptive action to eliminate or mitigate the potential cause or reduce the future consequence of a hazard. SM ICG Adapted from FAA Manufacturers SMS. Other sources use similar definition.
45 Proactive Any method that actively searches for potential safety risks through the analysis of an organization's activities prior to occurrence. See also Predictive, Reactive. SM ICG
46 Reactive Any method that responds to past occurrences. See also Proactive, Predictive. SM ICG
47 Risk The assessed predicted likelihood and severity of the consequence(s) or outcome(s) of a hazard. SM ICG
48 Risk Analysis Process whereby possible consequences of hazards are objectively characterized for their severity and probability. The process can be qualitative and/or quantitative. SM ICG Adapted from FAA Monitor Safety/Analyze Data (MSAD) Order 8110.107
49 Risk Assessment The identification, evaluation, and estimation of the level of risk. SM ICG Adapted from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/risk-assessment.html
50 Risk Control Activities that ensure that safety policies, procedures, and processes minimize the risk of an aviation accident or incident. SM ICG
51 Risk Management An organizational function that assesses the organization’s system design and verifies that the system adequately controls risk. A formal risk management process describes a system, assesses hazards, analyzes those hazards to evaluate the risk, and establishes controls to manage those risks. SM ICG
52 Risk Matrix A table that allows for the identification of the risk tolerability level through the combination of probability and severity. SM ICG
53 Safety The state in which risks associated with aviation activities, related to, or in direct support of the operation of aircraft, are reduced and controlled to an acceptable level. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
54 Safety Action Plan A plan that identifies a set of activities to be undertaken to achieve a safer aviation environment. SM ICG
55 Safety Assurance Processes used to ensure risk controls developed under the risk management process achieve their intended objectives throughout the life cycle of a system. This process may also reveal hazards not previously identified and identify or assess the need for new risk control, as well as the need to eliminate or modify existing controls. This is one of the four components of SMS. SM ICG
56 Safety Case A documented body of evidence that provides a demonstrable and valid argument that a system is adequately safe for a given application and environment over its lifetime. UK CAA CAP 760
57 Safety Culture An enduring set of values, norms, attitudes, and practices within an organization concerned with minimizing exposure of the workforce and the general public to dangerous or hazardous conditions. In a positive safety culture, a shared concern for, commitment to, and accountability for safety is promoted. CASA 3
58 Safety Data A defined set of facts or set of safety values collected from various aviation-related sources, which is used to maintain or improve safety.

Note.— Such safety data is collected from proactive or reactive safety-related activities, including but not limited to:

  1. accident or incident investigations;
  2. safety reporting;
  3. continuing airworthiness reporting;
  4. operational performance monitoring;
  5. inspections, audits, surveys; or
  6. safety studies and reviews.
ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
59 Safety Information Safety data processed, organized or analysed in a given context so as to make it useful for safety management purposes. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
60 Safety Library An organized set of safety-related records including hazards identified, occurrences, actions taken, and lessons learned. SM ICG
61 Safety Management An organizational function that strives to continually identify all safety hazards and to assess and manage the associated safety risks through a systematic approach that includes the necessary organizational structure, accountabilities, policies, and procedures. SM ICG Adapted from SKYbrary
62 Safety Management Implementation Plan A plan for the implementation of a State Safety Program or Safety Management System (SMS) that will meet regulatory requirements and the organization’s safety objectives while supporting effective and efficient delivery of services. The implementation plan details the actions to be taken and includes assignment of tasks and timeframes. SM ICG Adapted from ICAO 9859
63 Safety Management System (SMS) A systematic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organizational structures, accountability, responsibilities, policies and procedures. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.) Also Annexes 1, 6, 8, 11 and 14
64 Safety Manager The responsible individual and focal point for the implementation and maintenance of an effective Safety Management System. ICAO SMS Framework
65 Safety Oversight A function performed by a State to ensure that individuals and organizations performing an aviation activity comply with safety-related national laws and regulations. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
66 Safety Performance A State or a service provider's safety achievement as defined by its safety performance targets and safety performance indicators. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
67 Safety Performance Indicator A data-based parameter used for monitoring and assessing safety performance.

See also Safety Performance Target.

ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
68 Safety Performance Target The State or service provider’s planned or intended target for a safety performance indicator over a given period that aligns with the safety objectives.

See Safety Performance Indicator.

ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
69 Safety Policy An organization’s fundamental approach to managing safety that is to be adopted within an organization and further defines the organization management’s commitment to safety and overall safety vision. This is one of the four components of SMS. FAA AC 150/5200-37
70 Safety Promotion A combination of safety culture, training, and information sharing activities that support the implementation and operation of an SMS in an organization. This is one of the four components of SMS. FAA AC 150/5200-37 Other sources used the same definition
71 Safety Risk The predicted probability and severity of the consequences or outcomes of a hazard. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
72 Safety Risk Management A process used to assess system design and verify that the system adequately controls risk. A formal risk management process describes a system, assesses hazards, analyzes those hazards to evaluate the risk, and establishes controls to manage those risks. This is one of the four components of SMS. EASA
73 Serious Incident An incident involving circumstances indicating that there was a high probability of an accident and associated with the operation of an aircraft which, in the case of a manned aircraft, takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until such time as all such persons have disembarked, or in the case of an unmanned aircraft, takes place between the time the aircraft is ready to move with the purpose of flight until such time as it comes to rest at the end of the flight and the primary propulsion system is shut down.

Note 1 — The difference between an accident and a serious incident lies only in the result. Note 2.— Examples of serious incidents can be found in Attachment C.

ICAO Annex 13
74 Serious Injury An injury which is sustained by a person in an accident and which:
  1. requires hospitalization for more than 48 hours, commencing within seven days from the date the injury was received; or
  2. results in a fracture of any bone (except simple fractures of fingers, toes or nose); or
  3. involves lacerations which cause severe hemorrhage, nerve, muscle or tendon damage; or
  4. involves injury to any internal organ; or
  5. involves second or third degree burns, or any burns affecting more than 5 per cent of the body surface; or
  6. involves verified exposure to infectious substances or injurious radiation.
ICAO Annex 13
75 Service Provider An organization engaged in the delivery of aviation products or services. Preferred to synonym Product/Service Provider. SM ICG
76 Severity The extent of loss or harm associated with consequences of a hazard. SM ICG
77 Severity - Catastrophic Results in multiple fatalities and/or loss of the aircraft. SM ICG Adapted from UK CAA SRG
78 Severity - Hazardous A large reduction in safety margins, physical distress, or workload such that organizations cannot be relied upon to perform their tasks accurately or completely. Serious injury or death to a small number of aircraft occupants, ground personnel, and/or general public. Major equipment damage. SM ICG Adapted from UK CAA SRG and E.R. Vaidogas Lecture, 2009, Vilniaus Gedimino Technikos Universitetas
79 Severity – Major A significant reduction in safety margins and a reduction in the ability of organizations to cope with adverse operating conditions as a result of an increase in workload, significant discomfort, or conditions impairing their efficiency. Serious incident with physical distress to occupants of aircraft, injuries, and equipment damage. SM ICG Same sources as Severity - Hazardous
80 Severity - Minor Does not significantly reduce system safety and operator actions are well within their capabilities. May include slight reduction in safety margins, operating limitations, slight increase in workload, some physical discomfort, and/or minor equipment damage. SM ICG Same sources as Severity - Hazardous
81 Severity - Negligible Little consequence. Has no effect on safety. SM ICG Same sources as Severity - Hazardous
82 State of Design The State having jurisdiction over the organization responsible for the type design. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
83 State of Manufacture The State having jurisdiction over the organization responsible for the final assembly of the aircraft. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
84 State of the Operator The State in which the operator’s principal place of business is located or, if there is no such place of business, the operator’s permanent residence. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
85 State Safety Oversight A function by means of which States ensure effective implementation of the safety-related Standards and Recommended Practices and associated procedures contained in the Annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation and related ICAO documents. SM ICG Chapter 3; Appendix 1
86 State Safety Programme (SSP) An integrated set of regulations and activities aimed at improving safety. Also spelled State Safety Program. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
87 Surveillance The State activities through which the State proactively verifies through inspections and audits that aviation licence, certificate, authorization or approval holders continue to meet the established requirements and function at the level of competency and safety required by the State. ICAO Annex 19 (2nd ed.)
88 System Description A description of an aviation organization’s system including its structure, policies, communications, processes, products, and operations to understand critical factors for the purpose of identifying hazards. It is updated whenever there is a newly introduced element or change to the internal or external situation that could affect risk. SM ICG
89 Tolerable Risk Risk that has not been reduced to the desired level however further reduction is impracticable or the cost is disproportionate to the improvement that would be gained. SM ICG Adapted from ICAO 9859 Section 5.3

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