A VSO is a Virtual Safety Office. This is the short answer to the question. While this is the short answer, it doesn’t really define what a VSO is. A small business owner will possibly use accountancy software to manage the financial side of the business. This as well as having an accountant to finalise the books, file tax returns, and provide sound financial advice. With this scenario in mind, a VSO is to an aviation small business Safety Management System (SMS) as an accountant is to any small business’ finance. To further explain; National Aviation Authorities mandated that operators must have a formal SMS in place. For larger organisations, this meant employing more staff, formally known as a Safety Manager. The Safety Manager’s job is to document and log each and every incident or accident that occurs within the scope of the operation. This data is then collated and analysed, hopefully pointing toward weak areas in the business that need adjustment, to try to mitigate against any further incidents or accidents caused in these areas. For example, if a baggage handler in the business is regularly being injured catching bags coming out of an aircraft hold, perhaps this needs attention, procedures, or equipment may need to be changed to prevent this? In this case, a baggage belt loader may be appropriate to be put in place. This is all very well for larger organisations. Yes, a Safety Manager is another labour unit that is not directly contributing to business income, however, having an unsafe operation will very quickly dry up any income the business may have had in the first place. What about the smaller operator? There has been no real distinction between large and small aviation businesses when it comes to the mandated SMS implementation. With smaller businesses, often with one or two key personnel wearing many hats, the position of Safety Manager is often an add-on that becomes name only. The approved Safety management Manual (SMM) becomes a dust collector on the office bookshelf or perhaps a doorstop to allow air into the office in the summer. This is not what the authorities had in mind when it came to a mandated SMS with the accompanying SMM. Also, come audit time, suddenly the over-worked, stressed key person wearing the Safety Manager’s hat has to drop all other tasks and ‘produce’ data dating back to the previous regulatory audit. Most everyone agrees, this is less than ideal. The customers would likely be quick alarmed to learn this truth, the operator does not like being under such stress at audit time and the authority does not like having safety ‘tacked on’ to the ‘to do’ list of a key person. Safety is extremely serious. As has been said, safety is no accident. Mitigating latent or active failures leading to an incident or accident is a task that demands time and energy! Particularly for the smaller operator. So what is the solution? Most small aviation businesses have a small margin of profitability. Employing another labour unit just to be a Safety Manager is often outside their reach, yet we have seen, it is the very thing they might need. The answer here is the Virtual Safety Office. A VSO is an aviation consultant who works with many operators managing each operators SMS. There is still a Safety Officer appointment within the organisation, however, the VSO takes the lion share of managing the SMS and receiving staff incident reports, collating data, developing reports, making recommendations. The Safety Manager is still responsible for acting on these recommendations, but they can rest assured that a trained professional safety expert has combed through the data and reached an appropriate conclusion. A VSO acts very much in a similar advisory role as an accountant does for a small business’ financial responsibilities. So not only is the small operator developing a safer operation, they are doing so at less cost than employing a full-time staff member and can be comfortable in the knowledge that the business is continuously fully compliant but more importantly as safe as it can possibly be at any given point in time with current data available. Speur Aviation is an industry leader in this service in Europe. For the smaller operator wondering how to tick everything off their list, safety should not be another task to do on that list. Allowing a professional aviation consultant like Speur Aviation operates their VSO, suddenly SMS will no longer be a headache but a dream.