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The CAA’s responsibility for protecting UK citizens from all aviation activities goes beyond ensuring that minimum levels of compliance are met and needs to address identified risks within the aviation system.

These risks vary due to the complexity of the system and the operational environment. There is also the impact of the varying performance of individuals and organisations within the system. This variability in performance is impacted by internal and external changes, which need to be recognised and managed accordingly.

Accidents occur as a result of safety management systems failing. We need to be able to recognise when the system starts to become unsafe, or the risks are increasing, before an accident occurs. This is where SMS and effective Human Factors (HF) programmes can help.


The purpose of SMS is to make an already safe aviation industry even safer.

ICAO and EASA require SMS to be implemented to ensure that risks are managed effectively. Although not always explicit, this does include risks generated and mitigated by the people in the safety management system, including decisions made and actions taken at a management level as well as those taken by everyone else in the organisation.

Our oversight approach focuses on verifying how effective an organisation's SMS is. This is achieved through greater judgement by CAA staff, and more challenging conversations with industry.

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Our vision

Through the CAA's influence, the aviation industry implements and maintains effective safety management systems that reduce the risk of an aviation accident or incident occurring.

As SMS continues to mature within the aviation industry, the understanding of SMS and the many challenges involved will increase. Developing SMS policies, processes and procedures is just the beginning, and ensuring that these are embedded and adhered to organisation-wide is much harder.

Globally, we are one of the leading regulators on SMS oversight, sharing our SMS guidance and evaluation tools internationally, to enable others to adopt it or adapt it to their specific circumstances. Continuing this is hugely important, as it will ultimately help us to influence both our own industry, and the wider global aviation community.

The effective management of safety is a shared responsibility between the CAA and the UK aviation industry that will lead us all to a safer aviation system.

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