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Operational Risk: Implementing Open Norms (ORION) Project

Project Overview

The Operational Risk: Implementing Open Norms (ORION) project will develop and implement training to foster soft socio-technical skills for fully implementing and embedding a safety management system (SMS) and managing operational risk. ORION will focus on the skills needed to make the transition between fulfilling the formal requirements of a SMS and having a system that is fully embedded in normal operational practice so that it is fully part of the culture of the organisation, ensuring effective practice according the best practicable standards and delivering a high and constantly improving level of safety. This requires the skills and capability to productively address the systemic factors that influence an motivate people to behave in particular ways and to facilitate change. It also requires learning from others' experience.

The ORION project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

Background to ORION

The background to the ORION project are framed around several complementary identified needs:

Implementing SMS and Managing Operational Risk

The associate partners of this project are in various stages of implementing SMS and integrating SMS with OHSAS. They need to achieve real value from this organisational effort. Embedding SMS requires building actual norms of behaviour and performance, reporting, implementing improvement.

Creating an evidence base

There is no general evidence base of implementation studies, just a small number of research studies (for example: Ulfvengren, P and Corrigan, S., 2015: Development and Implementation of a Safety Management System in a Lean Airline. Cognition, Technology and Work, 17 (2) 219-236.) There is a need to create a more comprehensive evidence base of what works in implementing SMS across a range of industries and regions.

Best practice guidelines

There are not many standards or much guidance as to how to actually implement and embed SMS. One good example of best practice guidelines comes from the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) who published a Standard of Excellence in Safety Management Systems (SoE in SMS) and an associated implementation guide to support ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers) in their safety management (CANSO. Standard of Excellence in Safety Management Systems. Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation; 2015. CANSO. Safety Management System Implementation Guide. Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation; 2015.). The CANSO SoE in SMS is compliant with ICAO Annex 19 (ICAO. Annex 19: Safety management. International Civil Aviation Organization; 2013). This is largely a generic standard that is easily applicable to other industries. Level E of this standard is the highest level of implementation and embedding of safety practices that are shown to be effective. However, while there is a strong logic to this document it lacks a solid evidence base from actual implementation.

Generate Open Norms

Overall, it is important to demonstrate what is possible in terms of good practice in SMS implementation across a range of industries. This then shows what could and should be normal. Creating open access to this evidence in implementation case studies begins to  build open norms of how to progressively improve the real functioning of SMS in dealing with the pervasive intractable problems of operational risk.


Intellectual Outputs

The results of the ORION project are linked directly to the Intellectual Outputs and Multiplier Events that will be delivered through the project. Each of the Intellectual Outputs provide important results that are of value to the industries and sectors who are represented by the Associate Partners in the ORION project. These are described briefly below and all ORION project results can be accessed by clicking this link.

  • Intellectual Output 1 (IO1) SMS Maturity Assessment:

Intellectual Output 1 will provide a report synthesising research evidence and best practice guidelines, together with an analysis of the current maturity level of Safety Management Systems (SMS) in the Associate Partner organisations. This analysis will support the development of SMS Implementation Training.

Access the report: ORION IO1 SMS Maturity Assessment

  • Intellectual Output 2 (IO2) SMS Implementation Training:

Overall training design for train the trainers within the partnership as well as training SMS facilitators within the Associate Partners (including design of the facilitation and training to be offered by the facilitators in their organisations). This training includes developing an implementation case study report using the template developed in the knowledge base. There will be an initial training design and development activity ahead of four training events delivered to each of the Associate Partners that will support the full SMS implementation activity.

Access the reports by language below:


  • Intellectual Output 3 (IO3) SMS Implementation Validation:

The purpose of validation is to provide confidence that the concept being developed and implemented meets the stated objectives in practice. Key activities of the validation tasks in ORION are to:
• Ensure the SMS needs are fulfilled;
• Iteratively verify and validate components and activities through stages of concept, design, implementation and operations during project;
• Feedback to various providers of progression according to requirements along the development stages.

Access the report: ORION IO3 Evaluation and Validation

  • Intellectual Output 4 (IO4) SMS Implementation Framework:

Best practice guidelines will consolidate the initial evidence base, the training designed and delivered, the case study reports and the validation exercise. This will draw out the lessons learned about implementation and to derive guidelines for best practice in implementation.

Access the report: ORION IO4 Implementation Framework

  • Intellectual Output 5 (IO5) SMS Norms of Practice Manual:

The SMS Norms of Practice will develop a consolidated package representing the core aspects of each of the previous outputs will be produced. This will be designed to maximise transferability and impact by presenting in appropriate media the essential content of the ORION programme. This will be innovative in providing concise evidence-based standards of good practice in SMS implementation, that are carefully designed to be easily transferable between organisations, across industrial and service domains, and spanning different regions. The SMS Norms of Practice will provide the material for the Multiplier Events that will take place at the end of the project.

Access the reports by language below:

Project Consortium

ORION is coordinated by Trinity College Dublin


Kungliga Tekniska Hoegskolan, Sweden
Stamina Consulting Ltd., Ireland
Kratis Training and Consulting Ltd, Cyprus
Ergonomica, Italy

Associate Partners

Dublin Fire Brigade and Emergency Ambulance Service, Ireland
SAS Airlines, Sweden
TUS Airways, Cyprus
Skylink Services, Cyprus
Ospidal San Rafele, Italy
Emergency Ambulance Physicians Association, Turkey


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