Definition of Hazard Identification

Hazard identification in aviation SMS programs is the cornerstone of management's ability to develop risk controls. It is part of the Safety Risk Management element of the 4 Pillars of aviation safety. At face value, identification of hazards in aviation safety management systems is simple: awareness and recognition of dangerous situations in the operational environment.

In aviation SMS programs,hazard identification needs to be adopted as a formal process. "Formal process" means that the hazard identification processes can be:

  • Listed and described;
  • Controlled and mitigated with safety risk controls; and
  • Quantified and monitored with safety data (i.e. safety performance monitoring).

Hazard identification can be proactive, reactive, or predictive, depending on the type of risk management action being performed. In this way, hazard identification is a process of risk management operations. The reason it’s important to understand hazard identification as a process is because identifying hazards happens as a result of several actions in the aviation SMS program, including:

  • Awareness building activities;
  • Safety culture building activities;
  • Actively recognizing threats in the environment; and
  • Reporting threats in a formal hazard reporting tool (i.e. aviation SMS software or paper hazard reporting form).
Hazard identify graphic

Process of Hazard Identification

As discussed, the “process” of identifying hazards entails that hazard identification is the result of many actions within the safety program. This process can be summarized in 3 stages.

The first stage is awareness and safety culture building activities. This stage of the hazard identification process is designed to stimulate consciousness about safety with:

The second stage is teaching the ability to recognize hazards in the operational environment by understanding:

  • Risk factors;
  • Hazards and risk controls; and
  • How human behavior contributes to or mitigates safety exposure.

The third stage is reporting hazards and other safety issues. This stage simply involves reporting issues through the formal hazard process, which usually is:

  • An aviation SMS software with accompanying aviation safety database;
  • A hazard report online or physically (paper); or
  • Other hazard reporting method, such as an excel spreadsheet.

The third stage is a great way to identify new hazards, as well as establish what the most relevant items are for hazard identification in your aviation safety management system.