• Jason Starke

Establishing Meaningful SMS Recurrent Training


There is, without a doubt, a lot of training that takes place across all functions in the aviation sector. When we are first hired we are subjected to initial training to prepare us to do our jobs safely, efficiently, and effectively. Once we have settled into our role in the organization and have become proficient at our craft, we are then asked to partake in some form of recurrent training. This “refresher” training ideally should be to supplement initial training by introducing any changes to the job environment, policies, processes, or procedures. This training should also cover any significant issues that could crop up as well as cover any lessons the organization learned to help people operate even more safely, effectively, or efficiently. However, this doesn’t seem to be the norm when it comes to recurrent training. How many times have you - year after year - sat in front of a computer screen taking the same lessons from last year; and just trying to page through the narratives just to get to the test and get it over with? This has to make you wonder the point of the training and if it is providing any value.


When it comes to SMS training, regurgitating the exact same content covered in initial training year after year could get stale fast and not provide any real value. Is it really necessary to sit your folks in front of a PowerPoint presentation covering what hazards are, how risk is related, how to report, etc.? I am not sure this would promote engagement in the learning event, let alone provide value. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has - what I feel - a refreshing perspective on recurrent SMS training in Doc. 9859, 4th Ed. Basically, for recurrent training, the focus should be on changes to SMS policy, processes, and procedures, as well as any significant safety issues experienced with lessons learned. These are covered briefly below:

  1. Changes: Recurrent training is a great time to cover any changes to how the SMS functions or what is expected of the employees. For example, safety reports may have been edited, objectives updated, or the scoring of FRATs may have changed. While this information certainly would have been communicated when the change was made, recurrent training is a great time to reaffirm this. Also, this would be a good time to discuss any new features or changes in any technology that is used to support the SMS.

  2. Significant Issues: If there were any significant or notable safety issues within your organization, during recurrent SMS training is the best time to discuss these. Items such as what went wrong, what controls failed, and what was done to prevent a recurrence should be discussed as openly as possible. Even if the safety event only impacted one functional area of the organization (e.g., flight operations), individuals in other functional areas still may benefit from the discussion.

  3. Lessons Learned: Lessons learned are closely related to the last point. In the context of a safety event - or even near miss - what was learned to prevent a recurrence? Maybe the organization learned that its SOPs were deficient, or that certain procedures needed to be implemented to provide another layer of safety. Regardless, organizations should always strive to learn from these events and communicate what was learned to the employees.

Besides the above, it might also be beneficial to cover how an employee can interface with any technology used in support of SMS to report or perform other functions. It is possible that an individual may have not logged on to the system in several months, so a refresher may be sorely needed.

Remember, according to Annex 19, ensuring employees are appropriately trained to effectively perform their SMS duties is the organizations responsibility. Furthermore, it is the safety manager’s responsibility to establish the initial and recurrent training programs. In doing this, take time and make the recurrent training meaningful and impactful. Ultimately, the variety will increase engagement and make for a positive learning event.

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