Safety first for SMS manager

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Sean Innes was presented with his award by CASA Board Chair Mark Biskin recently in Cairns.
Sean Innes was presented with his award by CASA Board Chair Mark Biskin recently in Cairns.

Sean Innes, McDermott Aviation

It was a humble start as a baggage handler with some of Australia’s biggest commercial airlines that led to Sean Innes becoming one of our inaugural safety manager scholarship recipients.

‘When I started out in aviation I wasn’t particularly interested in the industry at the time, I just loved the airport environment, people and of course the fantastic travel perks,’ Sean says.

‘I was fortunate enough to try out various roles through my career, including several ground handling opportunities and as an airport services coordinator, before I was finally able to pinpoint what I enjoyed and where I could become a valuable asset to my employer.’

Sean currently works as a safety advisor at one of Australia’s largest owned heli-aviation companies, McDermott Aviation. Based in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the company flies a number of Bell and Eurocopter aircraft for a range of activities including medivac operations, search and rescue, fire control and charter flights.

He says he initially found it challenging to find his feet in the safety advisor role but ‘the ongoing training and development really helped’.

‘When I started in ground operations, I had to be patient, but always took on training and upskilling opportunities when they arose,’ he adds.

‘Once an internal position for a safety advisor became available at my workplace, I jumped at it. I also decided to study a Cert IV in WHS at Central Queensland University and chip away at some other training along the way.

‘You have to be open to continual learning and take opportunities when they arise and you pick up a lot of knowledge along the way. The opportunity to travel and meet new people is always nice as well.’

Sean, who’s previously worked for QantasLink, Virgin Australia and Alliance Airlines, says he’s now primarily responsible for managing all aspects of the planning, implementation and day-to-day of his organisation’s safety management system (SMS).

you have to be open to continual learning and take opportunities when they arise.

‘We have a really robust SMS in place at McDermott,’ he explains. ‘We oversee numerous CASA regulations, so it can initially be pretty overwhelming, but a regular day can include site/aircraft inspections or audits, team meetings, procedural/policy updates. There’s also training and compliance oversight.

‘I know it’s a cliché, but no 2 days are ever the same given the diverse nature of our aviation activities, so I’m certainly kept busy. You have to be committed in being both visible and approachable, so the staff know you’re available to discuss any safety issues.’

As safety managers are fundamental to maintaining Australia’s excellent aviation safety record, Sean has some sage advice for those interested in starting a career in the profession.

‘It’s up to the safety manager to develop a healthy safety culture within their organisation, so always be on the front foot and positive towards the business operation and the safety of your workmates,’ he says.

‘Being goal-oriented with excellent leadership qualities is important too, but this type of job is a great option for anyone who is interested in the operation and its people.

‘With so many different aspects of safety management, I’d like to use the CASA scholarship funds [each scholarship is worth up to $5,000 per recipient] to develop in areas where I’m lacking and potentially branch out to the environmental arena.

‘I’m also currently looking at leadership or investigation courses through Southpac Aerospace – I haven’t quite made my mind up yet. After 10 years in the aviation industry, it’s great to have this opportunity to refine my skills even further.’

Our safety manager scholarship program targets safety managers who are committed to the development of a healthy aviation safety culture within their organisation. To find out more, check out the CASA website.

For more information on becoming a safety manager, check out our Safety manager guide.

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