A Strategic Approach to Safety on Airport Ramps


The aviation sector in the UAE has experienced massive growth over the past two decades. The increased traffic in local airports has increased activities in the airport ramp and pressure on the ground crew to ensure that activities are conducted flawlessly and in time. SMS has emerged as an effective tool that can help enhance safety in a large organization by defining steps and stakeholders that should be involved in managing safety in organizations. In this study, the researcher focused on assessing the strategic approach to developing and implementing SMS on airport ramps in the UAE. The researcher collected from primary and secondary sources. The findings of the study show that local airports can enhance their efficiency if they use SMS to manage airport ramps’ safety. The study recommends that local airports should train their employees to have a better understanding of SMS as a tool for safety management.


Background of the Study

The world has been transformed into a global village and the aviation sector is playing a critical role in facilitating the movement of people and goods from one part of the world to another. According to Li and Guldenmund (2018), air transport has become one of the most reliable means of transport, especially for intercontinental travel. It remains the fastest and safest mode of transport in modern society. In the United Arab Emirates, the government has made major investments to improve the capacity of local airports to meet regional and international demands. According to Yu (2017), Dubai International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world on the basis of international passenger traffic and it has the highest average number of passengers per flight. The scholar notes that the airport is also one of the busiest cargo airports. The government has been making deliberate efforts to expand the airport’s capacity to meet international demand. Other airports such as Abu Dhabi International Airport, Sharjah International Airport, and Ras Al Khaimah International Airport have also experienced rapid growth over the past decade (Accou and Reniers, 2019). It is an indication that the government is committed to facilitating the growth of its aviation sector.

The growth of the aviation sector presents new challenges to the relevant authorities, especially the airport management unit. The tasks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, especially at the Dubai International Airport which has emerged as a regional hub. Adjekum (2017) explains that the airport is preferred by regional and international airlines because of the safety standards and easy movement of traffic. Despite the political instability and general threat of terror attacks that have affected the region, local airports have remained safe from any potential attacks. The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has embraced emerging technologies to ensure that airports remain safe for air travel. The goal is to ensure that all passengers, flight crew, and ground crew are assured of their safety.

Ramp safety remains one of the major concerns in modern civil aviation. Batuwangala, Silva, and Wild (2018) define a ramp as a dedicated space at a given airport where aircraft is parked, loaded, unloaded, refueled, examined, maintained, or boarded (Álvarez-Santos et al., 2018). Numerous activities have to be conducted at airport ramps the minute a plane touches down. The aircraft has to be cleaned, inspected, needed repairs done, and refueled before goods can be loaded and passengers allowed on board (Fekadu, 2020). It means that there is a constant movement of people, vehicles, equipment, and plans within the area. The constant movement of people and machines poses a major safety threat to planes, vehicles, and people. Inan and Bükeç (2020) observe that there is also the potential risk of terror attack, especially those who are interested in hijacking a plane or planting an explosive on an aircraft. Maintaining ramp safety is critical in enhancing aviation safety.

Safety management systems have emerged as a critical tool necessary in enhancing ramp safety in major airports. SMS stresses the importance of defining the role of every employee within the airport and how they have to work as a unit, with the help of emerging technologies, to make sure that every task is conducted effectively using the available resources (Kearns and Schermer, 2017). It eliminates cases where tasks are left undone because of a lack of proper coordination. It helps in promoting a culture of safety and commitment to perfection among workers. The primary goal of the system is to increase ramp safety, lower risks to people and machines within the area, and improve the working environment.

The UAE was selected as the country of focus because of the massive growth of its civil aviation sector, and its emergence as one of the crucial global aviation hubs. The Dubai International Airport is currently one of the busiest in the world (Pariès et al., 2019). The commitment that the government has made to improve the local airports and enhanced security have all played a role in making them attractive to global airlines. Local airlines such as Emirates and Etihad Airways have also become major players in the international aviation sector. The constant threat posed by extremist organizations and hostile governments in the region makes it critical for stakeholders to maintain the highest level of ramp safety.

This study seeks to assess the strategic approach to developing and implementing SMS on airport ramps in the UAE. It will investigate components of SMS and how they can be integrated into airport safety management to achieve the best outcome. It will assess how the system can be used to develop practical ramp safety management procedures and strategies, improve emergency management at airport ramps, identify and manage airside hazards, and counter possible external threats. The goal is to determine how SMS can help improve the general safety of people and machines at airport ramps in the country (Gullo and Dixon, 2018). The study will also discuss the relevant steps, requirements, and factors that need to be considered when creating the framework and evaluating its effectiveness.

Statement of the Problem

The UAE has witnessed significant economic growth over the past three decades. The government has remained committed to diversifying the economy to enable it to reduce its over-reliance on the oil and gas sector. Sectors such as tourism, real estate, and trade have received a major boost from the government (Adjekuma and Tous, 2020). The aviation sector is currently one of the critical sectors that help in the diversification of the country’s economy. There is a need to facilitate the movement of tourists, business persons, and experts into and out of the country. An expansion and modernization of the local airports have also meant that global companies use the airport regularly as a transit route to the regional and global markets.

The safety and security of passengers, goods, and aircraft remain a critical issue to the global community. In the Middle East and North Africa region, the security challenges posed by the Arab Spring and terror outfits have remained a major concern for major players in the aviation sector (Mendonca and Carney, 2017). Cases, where explosives are planted in aircraft or planes falling in the hands of hijackers, have been witnessed in the region before in countries such as Morocco, Egypt, and Iraq. As such, the government must ensure that it maintains high levels of ramp safety and security to ensure that local airports remain attractive to the international community.

The concept of a safety management system has gained massive popularity over the recent past. Many companies around the world, especially in the developed economies of the west, have been using the system to enhance security in their operations. Kyung-Jin, Hyung-Seok, and Young-Su (2018) observe that SMS has been proven as an effective tool that enhances safety in the workplace. It defines the role that every individual and machine should play to enhance safety. As local airports in the UAE continue to expand because of the increasing demand, it has become necessary to find additional ways of enhancing ramp safety. SMS offers an effective solution to the management of these airports as they seek ways of eliminating all forms of security and safety threats.

Research Objectives

The primary goal of this research was to create a strategic approach to developing and implementing a safety system on airport ramps in the UAE. The goal of the researcher was to determine how local airports in the country can use SMS to enhance ramp safety despite the increasing activities in these areas. The following are the specific objectives that the researcher seeks to achieve through the study:

  • To study the current body of literature to form the theoretical framework of the research;
  • To determine the components of SMS in the current setting;
  • To identify the major risk factors and hazards on airport rams, specifically in the UAE;
  • To outline practical ramp safety procedures that can be a part of an SMS;
  • To determine the strategic approach to develop a practical SMS ;
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of existing management systems and their applicability to specific settings;
  • To discuss the correlation between aviation safety and an effective safety management system.

Research Questions

Developing a strategic approach to implement an SMS in local airport ramps in the UAE required a careful collection of information. Data had to be obtained from primary and secondary sources. To achieve the aim and objectives of the study, the researcher had to use a set of questions that reflected what was to be achieved. The following questions were used to help in gathering information from various sources:

  1. What are the major risks, hazards, and threats peculiar to the ramp area?
  2. How should operations in the ramp area be managed to ensure high safety for all participants?
  3. What are the components of an effective SMS?
  4. What factors should be considered to develop a practical safety management system?
  5. How can an SMS be integrated into the work of an airport?
  6. What are the benefits of a stable and well-thought-out system in a long and short-term perspective?

Research Model

The researcher had to identify the appropriate philosophy and model for this study. Pragmatism was considered the most appropriate philosophy because of its assumptions and approach to developing knowledge. It was also established that the most desirable research approach was inductive methods. The model allowed the researcher to gather and effectively process data based on the realities the researcher had to face. The research method, including the model used, is discussed in detail in chapter 3 of this document.

Significance of the Research

It is necessary to discuss the significance of this study at this stage of the report. Air travel is considered the safest mode of transport (Nugraha, 2019). The UAE has been keen on expanding and modernizing its airport, and the Dubai International Airport has already become one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. It is critical for the government and all the stakeholders to ensure that these local airports maintain their reputation as the safest, efficient, and reliable facilities in the region. Any major accident or incident may significantly ruin the current reputation. As such, the government, through the management of these airports, must find ways of enhancing ramp safety and security.

The safety management system has emerged as an important tool that companies are using to enhance security and safety for workers, machines, and customers. However, it can only be effectively embraced if the management and those involved understand its relevance and how it should be applied. Through this study, local officials and policy-makers in the aviation sector will understand the significance of SMS and how it can be applied to enhance ramp safety in the local airports. The study will identify challenges that airports may face when using this tool and how to overcome such challenges to achieve the desired outcome.


It is necessary to note that when conducting this study, several assumptions had to be made. One of the major assumptions that were made was that management units of local airports in the UAE are willing and committed to enhancing ramp safety using emerging tools and concepts. As such, the document will provide them with relevant information that will be necessary to embrace SMS as a tool for safety management. Nugraha (2019) argues that SMS has proven to be effective in managing safety in industrial plants. The assumption made in the study was that the same success rate witnessed in the industrial sector can be replicated in airport ramps when SMS is used. In this study, the researcher made the assumption that SMS can be used alongside other tools and technologies currently in existence at local airports to enhance security. It means that these airports will not necessarily have to abandon the strategies and tools which are currently in use. Instead, they can incorporate SMS into their current systems to enhance the overall performance.


When conducting research, it is essential to identify limitations that may affect the overall outcome of the study. One of the major limitations faced when conducting the research was the inability to interact with as many respondents as possible during the primary data collection process. The global community is still reeling from the impact of COVID-19 (Nhamo, Dube, and Chikodzi, 2020). Although a significant number of adults in the UAE have received the vaccine, unnecessary physical interactions are still discouraged by health experts. Some of those with the information needed in this study were unwilling to meet with the researcher because of the fear of contracting the virus. Their advanced age makes them vulnerable to the adverse effects of the virus. Alternative ways of collecting data from such individuals had to be found.

Finding experts who fully understand the concept of SMS and how it can be applied in airport ramp safety was another challenge. The concept has gained popularity in the west, but it is still a relatively gray area within the region. It took time to identify individuals with the right knowledge about it. The researcher also noticed that the majority of books and scholarly articles about the topic are based on research conducted in North America and Europe. Finding relevant secondary materials based on studies conducted locally was a major challenge. Despite these limitations, the researcher was able to collect the needed information.

Definition of Terms

  • Extremist- an individual holding extreme religious and political views and often advocating for violent actions
  • ICAO- The International Civil Aviation Organization
  • IATA- The International Air Transport Association
  • UAE- United Arab Emirates
  • GCAA- The General Civil Aviation Authority
  • ISIL- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
  • SMS- safety management system
  • SA- Safety assurance
  • SRM- Safety risk management

Literature Review


Aviation security is a topic that has attracted the attention of many scholars over the past several decades. Stakeholders in this sector have taken deliberate measures to reduce cases of accidents and incidents. According to Nugraha (2019), every accident or incident in the aviation sector is often investigated as a unique occurrence, focusing on the identification of factors and chain of events that led to it, with the primary goal of avoiding similar occurrences in future. The sector has remained dynamic, often embracing emerging technologies and concepts that can help enhance the safety and security of passengers, the crew, the planes, and facilities at the airport. This section of the report will review findings made by other scholars, which are relevant to this study.

The Major Concerns of SMS and Ramp Safety

The increasing competition that the local aviation industry faces makes it necessary for the UAE to find ways of making its airport safer than those within the region. It also has to observe safety rules and regulations set by ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organization), IATA (International Air Transport Association) As such, it is necessary to embrace new concepts of security management. According to Kaspers et al. (2017), a significant number of accidents and incidents that have been reported in the aviation industry are caused by human error. Mistakes when loading, unloading, cleaning, repairing, and refueling of planes have resulted in major accidents. SMS seeks to define specific steps that stakeholders within the local airports can take to enhance ramp safety in all the airports in the country. It is necessary to assess the functional components of SMS and discuss how they can help enhance safety. Figure 2.1 below shows the major components of SMS.

Functional Components of SMS
Figure 2.1. Functional Components of SMS (Stolzer and Gogila, 2016, p. 42).

Safety policy

The first functional component of SMS is the safety policy. Having a strategic approach to the development and implementation of effective safety policies in airport ramps requires senior management’s commitment (Pereira et al., 2020). The top managers must understand and embrace policies that will ensure that the airport is safe. The first goal of this component is to establish management’s commitment to safety performance. In busy airports such as the Dubai International Airport, there is always the temptation to emphasize performance over safety because of the high number of planes landing and taking off every hour (Nardo et al., 2020). SMS promotes both the performance and commitment to safety as a way of achieving the desired success. The management is required to have a policy that promotes high performance without compromising the safety of the airport.

The second goal of this component is the need to establish clear safety objectives. According to Stolzer et al. (2018), the management is expected to establish clear objectives and remain committed to them. The problem that many organizations face in safety management is that most often objectives are set but rarely implemented. Sometimes the objectives are set to please external auditors instead of enhancing safety within an organization (Yiu et al., 2019). SMS emphasizes the need for managers to ensure that such objectives are implemented and observed at all times to enhance safety.

The component emphasizes the need to define processes, methods, and organizational structure necessary to achieve safety goals. You, Sze and Chan (2018) argue that a major issue that arises in airport safety management is the existence of ambiguous safety methods and processes. It is the responsibility of the management to define specific steps that have to be taken to enhance safety of airport ramps. The method and process should define what should be done as soon as a plane lands on the airport, repairs and maintenance processes, refueling, cleaning, and offloading and loading, and boarding of the plane by passengers and crew (Khosrow-Pour, 2021). It should also establish effective communication between the ground and cabin crew to avoid accidents and incidents at the airport ramps. Having a clear organizational structure also helps in determining the reporting hierarchy.

The component also promotes transparency in the management of safety. When the maintenance crew are under pressure to complete their tasks within the shortest period possible, cases of deceit often arise (Pereira et al., 2018). The crew may bypass a standard procedure needed to complete a given repair of the plane. In some cases, they may fail to conduct the repair but they would indicate that they did so in their report. Such deceits often have devastating consequences. The best way of dealing with such issues is to promote transparency and accountability among all stakeholders. If a given repair is incomplete or undone, the cabin crew should be duly informed to make them understand the forces that they have to deal with when they take off from the airport (Stolzer and Gogila, 2016). Documentations should be a genuine account of what has been done instead of what needs to be done.

The component requires organizations to build upon procedures and processes that already exist. The Dubai International Airport already has a standard practice of maintaining safety and security of the airport ramp. When a new practice emerges, SMS encourages the need to build upon what is already existing instead of completely abandoning it for a new policy (Price and Forrest, 2016). The management should create a system that examines the strengths and weaknesses of the current safety practice based on the emerging standards. The safety management unit can then define ways of addressing the weaknesses to improve the current system.

The component also believes that it is the responsibility of the management to create and facilitate cross-organizational communication. Safety management of airport ramps requires constant communication and cooperation of various stakeholders (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2020). The cabin crew needs to maintain effective communication with the maintenance team, the refueling agents, security personnel, the medical crew, and all other relevant units responsible for facilitating movement and enhancing safety and security of the aircraft, cabin crew, and passengers. The management should embrace emerging technologies to make sure that there is cross-organizational communication.

Safety risk management (SRM)

As shown in figure 2.1 above, the second component of the SMS is the safety risk management (Cusick, Cortes and Rodrigues, 2017). This component emphasizes the need for and the adequacy of existing risk controls (Cusick, Cortes and Rodrigues, 2017). SRM requires a formal process of managing risks that is based on various steps. The first step involves defining the system. The team needs to define the system that has been used to manage risks at a given airport ramp. When defining the system, Kaspers et al. (2017) suggest that its capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and uniqueness when compared to other existing systems should be stated. It helps in defining the superiority of the system when compared with the available alternatives.

When the system has been defined, the subsequent step is to identify possible hazards that it is expected to manage. In airport ramps, various risk factors have to be identified and effectively assessed. One of the common risks is overturned wheeled vehicles stemming from jet blasts (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2018). The force can be so strong that it can overturn vehicles used in the patrol or transportation of various materials or personnel within their airport. Injury to the employees is another common hazard that has to be managed. (Pereira et al., 2020) identifies damage to stationary aircraft during loading, unloading, or towing process as another common risk factor. Although it is uncommon, passengers may also be exposed to injuries when boarding a plane or when they are at the airport ramp. It is important to identify all the possible risk factors and assess them to determine how they can be effectively managed. The SRM then requires the team responsible for managing risks to develop an effective plan of managing each of the identified risk factors.

The final step is to embed the SRM process in the normal activities within an organization. Once the team has developed an effective process of managing various risks at the airport ramp, Nugraha (2019) advises that a new practice should be introduced in various departments. For instance, jet blasts have been identified to pose a serious threat to equipment and people on its path. A new practice will be introduced to ensure that employees avoid any activity close enough to jets when landing or taking off that may expose them to the identified risks (Kuşhan, 2018). Debris or foreign objects along the path of planes, especially the runways and taxiways, have proven to be dangerous. A standard practice has to be put in place to eliminate such objects as a way of protecting passengers and aircraft.

Safety assurance (SA)

The third component of the SMS model is safety assurance. According to Cusick et al. (2017), SA assesses the effectiveness of strategies for implementing risk control to ensure that they are capable of meeting the expectations of a given organization. As technology changes, it is likely that new risks may emerge. SA assesses the current system to help identify such new risks and ensure that they can be effectively managed. The constant auditing of the current system can be done internally or the organization may need to hire external experts to help in identifying possible weaknesses of the system (Li, 2020). SA is meant to provide confidence to all stakeholders that the existing system meets or even exceeds international safety standards in the aviation sector.

In an airport setting, the SMS should protect passengers, ground and cabin crew, planes, and structures and equipment used to facilitate the normal operation of an airport. Each of these factors are exposed to a varying level of risks (Lord and Washington, 2018). The SMS should stipulate how each of them should be protected. The SA team will focus on monitoring the trends and then finding ways of improving the existing system in line with the international best practices within the industry (Benny, 2016). When introducing change in the system, all the relevant stakeholders should be duly informed and prepared for it.

Quality assurance department should ensure that the practice embraced by the organization meets the national, regional, and international standards. The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in the UAE has set standards that have to be met by the management of local airports in maintaining safety and security at the local airports. The GCAA may introduce new policies and standards based on the emerging practices at the global level (Chakib, 2018). The SA team is expected to gather information about such possible changes and initiate processes that can help the organization to adjust its operations in line with the changes. Cusick et al. (2017) reiterates the significance of continuous improvement of skills and capabilities of employees. Experts who are expected to implement these changes should have the right skills to do so. Employee reporting also needs to be encouraged. Workers who are involved in various activities at the airport can easily identify specific weaknesses in the safety management system that may pose risks to people and equipment. They should be granted an effective communication system that allows them to inform the management of their views about the current safety mechanism, its weaknesses, and possible ways of improving it.

The SA promotes the idea of having a standard method of improving safety within an organization. It acknowledges the dynamism in the field of safety and security management (Stolzer and Gogila, 2016). As such, it requires organizations to find ways of maintaining a continuous improvement process. SA requires an organization to maintain a standard approach to introducing change. In most cases, it often starts with the identification of weaknesses in the current system (Yiu et al. 2019). Once the weakness is identified, its likelihood to occur and severity has to be explained. The team will then need to allow all the relevant stakeholders to propose ways of dealing with it. Each idea will be assessed and the best selected (Cusick et al., 2017). The organization will then introduce the new method based on the outcome of screening of the possible solutions.

Safety promotion

SMS holds the view that it is not enough to have policies and regulations regarding safety management in an organization. It is also important to promote a culture of safety and security within a firm (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2017). In this case, the responsibility of ensuring that the airport ramp is safe is handed to employees and all stakeholders instead of being viewed as being the responsibility of the top management. One of the ways of creating such a culture is to have effective communication systems. A passenger should be able to inform the ground or cabin crew when they notice anything strange as they wait to board a plane, during the processes of boarding the plane, or as they disembark from the plane (Nugraha, 2019). Similarly, employees- irrespective of their position in the management hierarchy, should have means of sharing their views and observations that may help enhance safety and security at the airport. Yiu et al. (2019) note that communication from passengers or junior workers should not be ignored. If possible, there should be a mechanism of responding to such observations within the shortest time possible, especially if it may result in an accident or incident.

Promoting a safety culture requires regular training. The aviation sector has been changing over the years as manufacturers introduce new planes and technology keeps introducing new methods of maintaining security and enhancing safety (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2017). The initial knowledge gained in school may not be enough to enable these employees to undertake their responsibilities effectively. As such, the management units of local airports in the UAE will need to have a clear plan of regular training for its employees. They need to understand new standards and practices that have emerged, and how to use modern technologies to enhance safety and security of the airport.

Matching skills and competencies to system requirements is another critical aspect of promoting safety at airport ramps. One of the common mistakes committed at airports is failing to carefully match skills of employees with tasks assigned to them (Cusick et al., 2017). An employee may have greater knowledge refueling of planes, but because they have some training in traffic control and there is a vacancy in that field, they may be assigned the role of a traffic controller. In such a case, they will be undertaking a task where they are less skilled instead of that which they have proper training and experience. Such mistakes may have devastating consequences (Nart and Yildirim, 2018). The human resource unit should assess the training and experience of every employee and ensure that there is an effective matching of one’s competencies to the tasks assigned to them.

The Current State

The concept of SMS is relatively new, but it is gaining rapid popularity around the world. According to Stolzer et al. (2018), SMS is a systematic approach to the management of security, focusing on organizational structures, procedures, policies, and accountabilities. First, an organization must have a clear structure of management that defines hierarchy of reporting and who is responsible for specific activities. The concept emphasizes the need for accountability among all stakeholders, especially those trusted with the management of airport security. Ferguson and Nelson (2013) explains that accountability goes beyond careful spending of resources assigned to officers. It also involves spending the required time on specific assignments and completing responsibilities as per expectations. The management is expected to develop policies and procedures that define how employees should behave and relate among themselves and with senior officers. There should also be a standard procedure of responding to and addressing any security threat that may emerge in the organization.

The use of SMS in the management of the security of airport ramps in the UAE is a relatively new practice. According to Alqassab (2020), the Dubai International Airport is the busiest in the region, and as such, the need to enhance security has remained high. SMS offers a simple but effective standard of practice that involves policies, procedures, and accountability among all the stakeholders within an organization. It is possible that these practices are already in use within the country for a long time (Nardo et al., 2020). However, SMS offers a clear method of rearranging these activities and ensuring that they help in enhancing security to the highest level possible. It is likely that despite its relative obscurity among the local stakeholders, this concept will gain massive popularity in the country. Its concepts will form basic policies in the management of the security at airport ramps. It will make everyone understand their unique responsibilities in security management.

Existing Approaches

Managing security in airport ramps has been a major concern in the aviation industry for decades. Various approaches have been used to enhance airport ramp security. According to Alqassab (2020), GCAA has developed different departments to help enhance safety and security at the local airports. The fire and rescue team is meant to respond to fire outbreaks at airport ramps (Nhamo et al., 2020). Such incidences may arise when planes are landing, taking off, or during the refueling process. The aviation security department is in charge of protecting these facilities from activities of criminals and extremist organizations (Alqassab, 2020). These officers work closely with homeland security and policies agencies in the country. The safety and health department addresses health emergencies and needs for both airport workers and passengers when the need arises. The commercial and security department is primarily responsible for gathering intelligence about potential threats and sharing the information with relevant agencies to ensure that appropriate measures can be taken to neutralize them.

Factors Influencing SMS

It is important to understand specific factors that have contributed to the growing popularity of SMS as a tool of enhancing security in modern airports. According to Alqassab (2020), one of the forces that have enhanced the usage of SMS is the growing threat of organized crime around the world. Drug traffickers are increasingly getting sophisticated in their ways of operations. They are reinventing their strategies of outmaneuvering airport security systems. As such, it has become necessary for airports around the world to redefine their strategies to ensure that they can stop the activities of these criminals. Human traffickers are also becoming a major menace in modern society (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2018). The problem is that in most of the cases, victims of these criminals do not even realize the threat that they face until it is too late for them to be rescued. It has been necessary for the international community to find ways of fighting the activities of these criminals (Phillips and Phillips, 2018). Enhancing security at the airports is one of the best ways of fighting international organized crime. By involving as many stakeholders as possible in this fight, it is possible to understand new trends and strategies that these criminals use to achieve their goals. The intelligence can then be used to not only stop their activities but also bring them to justice.

The UAE has enjoyed a long period of political stability and socio-economic progress. However, the same cannot be said of other countries within the MENA region. Libya, which was once a politically stable nation, has become a bedrock for some of the extremist organizations such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (Nhamo et al., 2020). The same trend of political instability has been witnessed in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and other parts of North Africa. These extremists often target airports, as was the case during the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attack on the United States (Cusick et al., 2017). Countries within the MENA region have remained alert on such threats, often keen on embracing emerging technologies and concepts to enhance security. SMS offers one of the best ways of enhancing security, especially its emphasis on continuous training and involvement of all stakeholders in enhancing security.

Technology has also played a major role in influencing the use of SMS in enhancing security at airports around the world. As new technologies emerge, it is becoming easy for the management of these airports to understand and implement SMS strategies (Nardo et al., 2020). For instance, SMS requires all stakeholders, including passengers, to participate in the management of airport security. Passengers can only do so when there is a simple way of sharing intelligence with the management of the airport. They also need to be assured that the information they provide will be used to protect them and others, and that sharing such intelligence will not expose them to criminals and extremists (Pereira et al., 2018). Most airports have provided ways through which people can deliver such messages anonymously to reduce the fear of possible attacks.

The commitment and willingness of the local airport managers to embrace emerging trends and best practices in enhancing security is another factor that has influenced the use of SMS. Security in the aviation industry has remained a sensitive issue. As such, stakeholders are often keen on embracing new practices, especially when they are based on scientific investigations. SMS has been proven as an effective way of enhancing security in airports. The concept has been integrated in many airports across Europe and North America (Cusick et al., 2017). It can be a helpful tool for many local airports in the region, and especially in the UAE where the aviation sector has received a massive growth.

Regulatory Agencies’ Demands to SMS

Safety and security of passengers, crew, aircrafts, and airports are highly valued in the aviation sector. As such, before a new concept or practice is introduced, the relevant authorities must ensure that it conforms to policies put in place by regulatory agencies. In the UAE, GCAA is responsible for ensuring that local airports are safe and functional to the international standards. Local airports must also ensure that their operations conform to the ICAO standards of safety and security (Price and Forrest, 2016). When introducing SMS, it is necessary for the relevant authorities to ensure that its components do not contradict safety and security requirements put in place by these regulatory agencies. As discussed above, SMS seeks to have a standard approach of managing security within an organization. One of the main benefits of this tool is that it can easily work well with other existing safety management tools. When introduced in airport ramps’ safety management, authorities will not need to abolish existing strategies. Instead, the SMS will act as a checklist to ensure that everything is done as per the expectations of these authorities.

Ramp Safety and SMS in the UAE

Ramp safety is one of the major issues that authorities of local airports in the UAE have taken seriously. The Dubai International Airport is one of the safest airports in the world. Besides the uniformed and uniformed police and intelligence officers working around the clock to enhance security, the airport has employed state-of-the-art technology to ensure that any threat is detected and neutralized immediately (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2020). SMS is a relatively new concept in the country’s aviation sector, but various aspects of this tool, such as the need for involvement of many stakeholders in security management is already practiced. SMS will help organize security management of airports across the country by standardizing practices involved in ramp safety management. The role of each employee and other stakeholders will be defined, and a reporting channel clearly stated. This tool will also make it possible for non-staff passengers to get actively involved in security management at the airports (Raue, Streicher, and Lermer, 2019). They will have the opportunity to track the response of the airport to intelligence reports that they provide anonymously.

Possible Improvement

Local airports in the UAE have always ranked highly in the international community in terms of safety and security of the ramps. However, that does not rule out the possibility of making improvements as proposed by the SMS. Criminals and extremist organizations are getting highly sophisticated in their attacks (Pereira et al., 2018). Airports are often some of the most sensitive places when it comes to the issue of security management. As such, these airports must remain dynamic and proactive when it comes to the management of their security. SMS offers a standard approach to maintaining continuous improvement of safety and security. Instead of waiting for an incident, accident, or an attack to occur before introducing change, the airports can remain proactive by assessing emerging threats and putting in place measures to neutralize them before they can occur.

Recommendations for Further Actions

The level of security and safety management of the local airport ramps in the UAE is satisfactory, as has been shown in the discussions above. The country’s local airports are considered some of the safest in the world. However, such high rankings can only be maintained if there is a continuous improvement in safety standards based on emerging trends in the global community (Szyłowicz and Zamparini, 2018). SMS presents recommendations for further actions that can help improve safety standards at these airports. Chapter 4 provides detailed recommendations that local airports can embrace based on information from primary and secondary data.

Innovative SMS Systems

When managing ramp safety, it is essential for airport management to maintain creativity and innovation. One of the factors that have made SMS an important tool for safety management is that it emphasizes the need to maintain innovation (Nardo et al., 2020). Safety promotion and awareness, which is one of the components of SMS, requires institutions using the tool to monitor changing trends in the industry and to develop innovative ideas of addressing emerging problems. Strategies that are effective in enhancing ramp safety today may become obsolete as new aircraft are introduced and new threats emerge. Innovation helps in ensuring that the practice that an organization uses remains relevant to the issues that it faces (Pereira et al., 2020). Whenever there is a change, the existing security management system should be adjusted accordingly to reflect the same.

Effectiveness Evaluation

A new concept or practice can only be relevant if it meets the expectations of a given organization. SMS is meant to formalize and standardize safety management within an organization. It identifies the role and responsibilities of different stakeholders within a firm (Cusick et al., 2017). When introduced in the local airports as a tool to improve safety of airport ramps, the relevant authorities will have to make sure that it meets the set expectation. A regular evaluation will thus be necessary. A team will assess the impact of the new system and its relevance in achieving the highest standards of ramp safety. The goal of such an assessment is to determine if the time and financial resources invested in the new practice is worth it based on the outcome.


The government of the UAE has been keen on promoting the growth of the aviation sector as one of the ways of diversifying the country’s economy. The review of the literature conducted in this chapter shows that the country has some of the safest airports in the world. However, these airports must remain dynamic and proactive when it comes to the management of their safety and security. The review shows that SMS offers an effective solution to achieving the desired growth. Although it is a new concept, SMS offers an effective way of ensuring that local airport ramps are safe for passengers, crew, and aircraft.

Research Methodology

The previous chapter has provided a detailed discussion of information obtained from secondary data. It helps in understanding what researchers in this field have found out and the possible gaps in knowledge that should be addressed through further research. In this chapter, the primary goal is to discuss the strategy used to collect and process data from primary sources. As Hennink, Hutter, and Bailey (2020) observe, once a knowledge gap has been identified through a detailed literature review, it is essential for a researcher to gather facts from primary sources to address the knowledge gap. In this study, the focus was to assess a strategic approach to development and implementation of a safety management system on airport ramps in the UAE (Tan, 2018). The main challenge faced was that most of the journal articles, books, and other readily available secondary sources were based on studies conducted in Europe and North America. Through this study, the researcher had to find a way of collecting the information from individuals working in the UAE’s aviation sector, especially those who have specialized in the safety of airports. This section explains the strategy that was used to obtain and process data obtained from primary sources.

Research Philosophy

When planning to conduct a research, one of the issues that have to be defined in clear terms is the research philosophy. Tan (2018) defines it as a belief about appropriate ways of collecting, analyzing, presenting, and using data about a given phenomenon. It entails defining the nature, source, and the development of knowledge in a given field (Halperin and Heath, 2017). As shown in the research onion in figure 2.1 below, determining the appropriate research philosophy is the first step when planning for such a study. A researcher can opt to use any of the four philosophies based on the nature and goals of the study.

Research Onion
Figure 3.1. Research Onion (Bertrand and Hughes, 2017, p. 41).


Positivism is one of the most common philosophies when conducting research. It holds the view that knowledge can only be considered factual and trustworthy if it is gained through observation and measurements (Thanem and Knights, 2019). A researcher must remain objective and the role is limited to that of data collection and interpretation. It means that knowledge and personal experiences of the researcher should not influence the outcome of such a study. It also underscores the significance of collecting quantifiable data, which can be used to conduct a statistical analysis. It has remained popular among empiricists who believe that knowledge is gained from human experience (Peters, 2020). This philosophy was not used because the research did not involve quantitative analysis of data.


It is another common research philosophy, especially among those who are conducting studies in pure sciences. According to Bell (2017), the philosophy holds the view that reality is independent from the mind of humans. The views of an individual may be influenced by personal experiences, beliefs and perceptions, societal stereotypes, or even personal experiences. Such views may not necessarily be true. As such, the only way of gaining factual knowledge is to conduct a study using scientific methods. Just like positivism, this philosophy limits the role of a researcher to that of data collection, analysis, and interpretation. However, it differs from positivism when it comes to data collection (Haslam and Mcgarty, 2018). Instead of gathering views and ideas of individuals, it requires one to collect data in a laboratory setting. As such, it was not the appropriate philosophy that could be used to guide this study.


The philosophy has remained popular among social scientists because of its assumptions. According to Howitt (2019), interpretivism holds the view that access to knowledge and reality is through social construction, instruments, and shared meanings. Unlike the above two philosophies, it allows for the integration of human interest in a given study. The proponents of the philosophy believe that it is not possible to ignore the knowledge and experiences of a given scholar when conducting research (Haslam and Mcgarty, 2018). As such, it allows a researcher to use personal knowledge and experiences to help guide their investigation. It also encourages the use of qualitative analysis as one of the best methods of processing information gathered from primary sources. The researcher did not use this philosophy, despite its appropriateness for this study, because of the desire to remain objective in the study.


Jacobsen (2021) explains that pragmatism has remained the most popular research philosophy among social scientists. It acknowledges that different ways exist in the interpretation of the world. As such, when conducting a study, there is no single point of view that can provide an entire picture of a given phenomenon (Creswell and Creswell, 2017). It is also possible to have multiple realities when an issue is investigated from different perspectives. It allows a researcher to use multiple methods to develop knowledge as long as the information developed can support an action. A researcher can either use qualitative or quantitative methods to develop knowledge when using the philosophy. It was considered suitable for the study because of its flexibility (Merriam and Tisdell, 2015). The fact that it requires the developed knowledge to be practical was also important for the study. When assessing the strategic approach to developing and implementing an SMS system on airport ramps in the UAE, the goal is to develop practical solutions that can be used by authorities in the country to enhance security. As such, the assumptions of this philosophy were considered most appropriate for the study.

Research Approach


Deductive reasoning is a common approach when conducting quantitative research. It starts with the development of a hypothesis based on existing theory, then having a research strategy that will help in testing it (Merriam and Tisdell, 2015). When using the approach, the primary goal of a researcher is to develop a relationship between variables. It should be conducted in specific steps to achieve the intended goal. First, a researcher has to formulate hypotheses based on an existing theory. The hypothesis developed should focus on defining the relationship between a given dependent variable and an independent variable. Once the hypothesis is formulated, the next step is to collect data and test the hypothesis to confirm or reject it. Quantitative strategies such as correlation and regression analysis, median, mean, and mode can be used to facilitate the testing of the hypothesis (Hennink et al., 2020). The researcher will then examine the outcome to determine if it confirms or rejects the hypothesis and the theory. The last stage is to modify the theory on the basis of the findings made in this research. The approach is popular and appropriate in the quantitative research approach, hence it was considered inappropriate for the study. Figure 3.2 below shows the pattern approach that is involved when developing knowledge using deductive reasoning.

Deductive Reasoning
Figure 3.2. Deductive Reasoning (Hennink et al., 2020, p. 58).


Inductive reasoning takes a different approach to developing knowledge from deductive reasoning. It requires a researcher to start a given study by making observations. Instead of having research fixed on specific hypotheses and theories, it creates independence for the researcher to search for information and then use it to develop knowledge. Tan (2018, p. 73) explains that the inductive approach “involves the search for patterns from observation and the development of explanations for those patterns through a series of hypotheses.” As such, no hypotheses or specific theories are required at the initial stages of the study. Instead, clear questions have to be developed that will help in collecting relevant data from various sources. As Halperin and Heath (2017) observe, it is necessary to note that the inductive method does not disregard the significance of theories when conducting research. It only rejects the idea of focusing on proving a specific theory in the study. As shown in figure 3.3 below, inductive reasoning follows three basic steps. It starts with making observations based on specific research questions. The researcher then has to develop specific patterns based on the observations made. The final step is to develop a theory/knowledge based on the pattern that has been developed. The approach provides an effective way of assessing the strategic approach to developing and implementing an SMS system on airport ramps in the UAE.

Inductive Reasoning
Figure 3.3. Inductive Reasoning (Hennink et al., 2020, p. 60).

Research Design

When research philosophy and research approach have been defined, the next step is to select the appropriate research design that can help achieve objectives of the study. According to Thanem and Knights (2019), research design in defining a logical plan that one intends to use in collecting, interpreting, analyzing, and discussing data obtained from specific sources. A researcher can use descriptive research, correlational study, exploratory research, or true experimental research based on the selected research philosophy, approach, and objectives that have to be realized by the end of the study.

Exploratory research was considered the appropriate research design for the study. As Tan (2018) explains, exploratory research involves an investigation of a problem that is not clearly defined to have a better understanding of the issue being investigated. At the beginning of this study, it was not clear whether local airports in the UAE are using SMS to enhance safety of airport ramps. As such, the study focused on explaining the relevance of SMS to these airports’ security, the extent of the usage of SMS if any, and what can be done to ensure that they are effectively integrated in the management of these facilities across the country. This design will allow the researcher to investigate the capacity of these organizations to embrace the new concept.

Research Strategy

Selecting an appropriate research strategy is important in enhancing the success of a study. The chosen strategy should reflect specific goals, objectives, and challenges that one may face when collecting and processing data. It is necessary to note that the chosen strategy should be aligned to the research philosophy and approach that had been selected. One can either use qualitative or quantitative research methods as the appropriate design depending on the aim and objective of the research. It is necessary to discuss both methods before explaining why one was selected to guide the process of analyzing primary data.


One of the most preferred methods of research among social scientists is quantitative methods. It involves an objective collection and processing of numerical data to help predict, describe, and control variables under investigation (Hennink et al., 2020). The aim of quantitative research is to test the relationship between specific variables to help in making predictions and to generalize the outcome to a wider population (Tan, 2018). When conducting quantitative research, one is expected to develop structured questions, often using a Likert Scale, which can be assigned numerical values. It does not allow a detailed explanation of a phenomenon because of the need to have answers that can be coded. Analysis of quantitative data involves statistical methods such as the use of Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS), Excel Spreadsheet, and other similar software. The nature and goal of this study does not require a quantitative approach to data analysis. As such, it was considered a less appropriate method of processing data for the study.


The other popular method of analyzing data in social science research is qualitative analysis. Thanem and Knights (2019) define it as a process of collecting, processing, and interpretation of non-numeric data to help understand a given phenomenon. Instead of narrowing down to the determination of the existence of relationships among different variables, qualitative methods focus on providing a more detailed explanation of an event. Consequently, it uses open-ended questions that allow respondents to provide as much information as possible based on their understanding and experiences. The goal of the researcher is to identify themes based on the responses from the respondents. During an interview, a researcher is at liberty to request a respondent to provide further explanation of a given issue when the answer is unclear or significantly contradicts the existing knowledge of the researcher. It means that the knowledge of the researcher cannot be ignored in the process, which means that the objectivity that is required in quantitative methods and deductive approach may not apply in this case (Hennink et al., 2020). Qualitative method is appropriate when one is an inductive approach to developing knowledge. In this study, qualitative methods were considered the most appropriate method of analyzing data. It helped the researcher to assess a strategic approach to developing and implementing a safety management system on airport ramps in the UAE.

Data Collection Method

When a research proposal has been approved, the next important step is to collect data to help answer specific research questions. The process of collecting data often begins at the proposal development stage. One has to define in clear terms the possible sources of data that should be used in the study. In this investigation, data was obtained from two main sources, as discussed below.


Secondary data sources were instrumental in this investigation. The researcher relied on scholarly articles, books, and other reputable online sources to collect secondary data. The aim was to bring to fore what other scholars have found out when investigating issues in the same or related fields (Halperin and Heath, 2017). Most of the materials used in the study were found in online databases such as Jstor, Google Scholar, and other academic online journal databases. Key words and phrases such as airport ramp security, safety management system, strategic management, terror, and airport security were used to help in locating the needed materials. Information obtained from secondary sources formed the basis of the literature review in chapter 2. Information was also used to support arguments and to define concepts in the rest of the chapters in this project.


Primary data was important in addressing the knowledge gaps identified when reviewing the literature. According to Thanem and Knights (2019), when a researcher has gone through secondary data, it is possible that they may find conflicting information about a given issue or a knowledge gap. It is essential to address the knowledge gap or harmonize the existing knowledge by collecting primary data. The process helps in understanding a phenomenon in its current state. In this study, primary data was collected using two main strategies. The first strategy was an interview that was conducted among a small sample of respondents. Most of these respondents are senior and mid-level managers at local airports in the country. A face-to-face interview was organized, strictly following the set COVID-19 protocols. The second strategy was the use of online surveys. This second strategy was employed to help achieve data saturation. It was not possible to meet all the participants within the short period of the study. As such, an online survey was conducted to ensure that the right number of participants was involved in the study.

Sampling was important when selecting those who needed to participate in the study. When sampling, Hennink et al. (2020) advises that a researcher should ensure that those included in the study have the right information based on their knowledge and experience. The information they provide should not be based on stereotypical information, rumors, or unfounded beliefs. It meant that participants had to be selected carefully. Judgmental sampling was considered appropriate. It involves selecting specific individuals for the study based on their position within the firm, their academic background, and experience. The participants were then informed about the study and their role explained to them.

A questionnaire was developed to help in the process of collecting primary data. According to Halperin and Heath (2017), a questionnaire is an important data collection instrument, especially when one is conducting a survey or interviews. The document used had 3 main sections. The first part of the instrument focused on the demographic background of the respondents to ensure that they met the basic requirements to take part in the investigation (Thanem and Knights, 2019). The second part of the document focused on the participants’ academic background and their experience. It was meant to assess the ability of the respondents to provide authoritative answers to the set questions. The last part of the document focused on the strategic approach to developing and implementing a safety management system on airport ramps in the UAE. The document was developed when the research proposal was approved.

Ethical Considerations

When conducting the research, it was important to take into consideration ethical issues. Thanem and Knights (2019) argue that one of the critical ethical requirements that one has to observe in research is the need to protect the identity of participants. There are cases where an individual may be harassed by superiors or discriminated against by colleagues because of their divergent opinion on a given sensitive topic. It is the role of a researcher to make sure that the identity of such individuals is protected at all cost to make sure that they are not subjected to any form of harassment because of their opinion. Instead of using their actual names, the researcher assigned these participants unique identities using numbers (Participant 1, Participant 2, Participant 3, and so forth).

It meant that it was not easy to trace specific individuals’ actual identity. Hennink et al. (2020) also note that it is the responsibility of the researcher to duly inform participants about the study and address all concerns that they might have. The researcher contacted participants who were engaged in interviews through direct phone calls. The nature, goal, and significance of the study was explained to them. They were informed about the role that they were expected to play. The researcher informed them that their involvement in the study was voluntary and that they could withdraw from it whenever they felt compelled to do so. The researcher also observed rules, regulations, and ethical requirements set by the school. The document was prepared from scratch and information obtained from secondary sources were properly referenced using the Harvard style.

Results and Discussion

The previous chapter has provided a discussion of the strategy used to obtain and process data from primary sources. In this chapter, the primary goal is to analyze data that was collected from primary sources. The focus was to respond to the specific questions that were developed in the research proposal and to achieve the objectives of the study. The section then discusses the findings from primary and secondary sources to determine strategic approaches to developing and implementing a safety management system on airport ramps in the UAE.

Analysis of Primary Data

Primary data in this study was obtained from a sample of participants who are currently working in local airports in the United Arab Emirates, especially at the Dubai International Airport. These individuals have experience on the safety of airport ramps and understand challenges that they face daily as they handle passengers and planes within the facility. Their positions in these airports makes it possible for them to understand the appropriateness of strategies that can be employed to enhance safety of the ramps. In this qualitative analysis, the focus was to provide detailed answers to the research questions as shown below.

What are the major risks, hazards, and threats peculiar to the ramp area?

The first question focused on identifying specific risks and hazards present in the ramp area. Understanding these risks helps in defining the best approach of managing them. Respondents were requested to explain specific risks and hazards that exist in airport ramps based on their experiences. Using open-ended questions, they were allowed to explain their answers.

Table 4.1. Major Risks, Hazards, and Threats at Airport Ramps

Risk Factor/Themes Supporting Quotation
Jet blast Participant 1 explained, “Jet blast is one of the major risks to ground operations when planes are in different stages of movement under their own power. For instance, Boeing’s 737-series has a powerful CFM-56 engine capable of overturning wheeled vehicles. It can also cause serious damage to ground crew or other planes when objects are blown off during the process of taxiing, taking off, or landing.”
Collisions Participant 4 said, “There is always the risk of a plane striking other aircrafts, ground support vehicles, or ground workers at different stages of taking off, landing, or parking. Such cases have been witnessed and they are often caused by poor coordination of the ground and cabin crew.”
Poor weather Participant 5 stated, “Weather poses a major risk to airport ramps. During heavy rains and thunderstorms, traction and visibility are significantly reduced. As such, there is the risk of support vehicles striking planes and vice versa.”
Fire outbreak Participant 8 said, “When planes are forced into crash-land, the highly flammable jet fuel can easily cause fire. Fire accidents can also occur during the fueling process.
Noise pollution Participant 11 said, “Managing noise pollution has remained a major challenge in airport ramps for the ground crew. Many of them are affected by the noise and are forced to seek medication after some time.”

The first respondent explained that when planes are landing, taking off, or taxiing under their own power. It means that when runways and taxiways are not cleared of any debris, there is a serious threat to ground crew, vehicles, and other planes parked near the path that a jet takes to take off or land. The Dubai International Airport receives some of the largest jets with powerful engines, which means that the threat is significantly high. If measures are not taken to mitigate these risks, regular accidents and incidents can be witnessed. Another respondent noted that when there is no proper coordination of the ground and cabin crew, there is always the risk that an aircraft may strike other parked planes or people responsible for various activities. The other participant identified weather as a major factor that local airports should consider when addressing safety issues in airport ramps. Accidents and incidents have been reported at local airport ramps, which are primarily caused by poor weather. Noise pollution and possible fire outbreak are the other potential risks that should be effectively managed.

How should operations in the ramp area be managed to ensure high safety for all participants?

After identifying the major risks at the local airport ramps, it was necessary to find effective ways of managing them. Nhamo et al. (2020) reiterates that addressing each threat individually is one of the effective ways of enhancing safety at airports. Table 4.2 below proposes ways of dealing with the threats.

Table 4.2. Managing Risks, Hazards, and Threats at Airport Ramps

Strategy/Themes Supporting Quotation
Clear the path of turbojets Participant 1 stated, “The best way of managing risks associated with jet blast is to ensure that light aircrafts are not parked tail-to-turbojets. Ground crew, including support vehicles, should steer clear of the path taken by jets.”
Effective coordination of cabin and ground crew Participant 2 explained, “There should be proper coordination between the cabin and ground crew to ensure that any form and possibility of collision are eliminated.”
Use of technology to improve traction and visibility Participant 5 said, “Although it is not possible to control weather, improvement of taxiways to enhance traction and visibility is highly recommended. Emerging technologies can help in such improvements”
Use of emerging technologies to fuel jets and respond to fire outbreak Participant 8 noted, “It is necessary for local airports to use emerging jet fuelling technologies to minimize risk of fire outbreak. They should also have effective mechanisms of responding to cases of fire outbreaks within the airports.”
Use of protective gear to minimize effects of noise pollution Participant 11 said, “The ground crew should have protective gear to help them avoid risks associated with constant noise pollution as aircraft land or take-off.”

The table above identifies specific measures that can be taken by relevant authorities to minimize or eliminate the threats identified in the previous table. Various stakeholders should understand the role that they need to play in enhancing the safety and security of the airport from each of the risks stated above. The goal is to have a coordinated system of responding to and managing threats at airport ramps (Li and Guldenmund, 2018). The team should focus on eliminating the possibility of the occurrence of risk factors instead of reacting to them when they have occurred.

Based on the investigation conducted, it was evident that factors that should be considered to develop a practical safety management system include the available financial resources, the commitment of the top management to the new concept, and the capacity of the local workforce (Nhamo et al., 2020). The management of these airports should also consider emerging trends and practices in the aviation sector both regionally and internationally.

How can an SMS be integrated into the work of an airport?

It was necessary to determine ways in which SMS can be integrated into the work of an airport. The researcher interviewed the respondents to determine their views on the integration of SMS into airport ramps’ security management based on their knowledge and experience working at local airports in the UAE. Table 4.3 below identifies the steps that can be taken to help integrate SMS into the management of airport ramps in the country. At every stage, specific individuals are responsible for undertaking various actions to ensure that there is an improved communication and coordination.

Table 4.3. Integrating SMS in Airport Ramp Safety Management

Steps Supporting Quotation
1. Investigate the need Participant 6 said, “It is necessary to conduct an internal audit to understand specific needs in airport ramp management. The need assessment will help define the role that SMS will play in enhancing safety.”
2. Identify weaknesses in the existing system Participant 2 explained, “Identifying weaknesses in the existing system helps in convincing the stakeholders, especially the policy-makers, of the significance of introducing SMS to address existing challenges.”
3. Determine how SMS will address the need/weaknesses Participant 5 stated, “The team should clearly explain how SMS can and will address identified challenges in airport ramp safety management. It is also necessary to explain how it will be applied in the system.”
4. Train staff on components and concepts of SMS Participant 9 said, “When a decision to introduce SMS is made, the management should ensure that the responsible staff is adequately trained to equip them with relevant knowledge of using SMS.”
5. Introduce SMS Participant 10 noted, “Once the preparation for the introduction of SMS is complete, the management should introduce its application by defining new policies and assigning employees specific roles as stipulated in the SMS. The overall ramp safety management system should be aligned with the concepts of SMS”

What are the benefits of a stable and well-thought-out system in a long and short-term perspective?

It was necessary to develop a report that would convince policy-makers in the country to consider embracing SMS as a means of improving safety and security at airport ramps in the country. As such, it was necessary to identify specific benefits of using this tool at local airports in the UAE. Respondents were requested to identify specific benefits that they believe are associated with the use of SMS in enhancing airport ramps’ security. As shown in table 4.4 below, some of the identified benefits include reduced rates of incidents and accidents, reduced cost of operation, improved communication and coordination of activities, and improved productivity among employees.

Table 4.4. Benefits of Stable System of Airport Ramp Safety Management

Benefits Supporting Quotation
Reduced rates of accidents/incidents Participant 3 said, “Having a stable and well thought-out system helps in reducing accidents and incidents at airport ramps through proper communication and coordination of activities.”
Reduced costs Participant 4 stated, “A stable system of airport ramp safety management reduces costs by minimizing accidents and incidents. The cost is also reduced by having a proper coordination of activities in airport ramps.
Improved communication and coordination Participant 7 said, “A well thought-out system of ramp safety management improves communication and coordination of employees in the airport. SMS addresses weaknesses that may exist in the communication system within an organization.”
Improved productivity Participant 8 observed, “The productivity of the safety and security management team is significantly improved when there is a stable system that defines how activities should be conducted. Enhanced communication eliminates any misunderstandings, which further improves the performance of individual employees.”

How effective are the existing management systems and what is their applicability to specific settings?

The information obtained from primary and secondary sources indicated that the existing security management systems are effective and they can be applied in airport ramps’ safety. However, the analysis shows that cases of miscommunication and poor coordination have in the past resulted in incidents and accidents at these airports. SMS seeks to enhance, as opposed to redefine, the existing strategies by providing a checklist of what should be done and those who should be responsible for specific activities (Nhamo et al., 2020). The study has established a correlation between aviation safety and an effective safety management system. It has also identified practical ramp safety procedures that can be a part of an SMS as discussed above.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The United Arab Emirates has a robust aviation sector that has experienced massive growth in the last two decades. The Dubai International Airport is currently one of the busiest in the world. Other local airports such as the Abu Dhabi International Airport and Sharjah International Airport have also become major regional hubs. Safety and security of passengers, cabin and ground crew, aircraft, and the airport facilities is paramount to the success and normal operations of these facilities. Although the Middle East region has been volatile over the past decade because of the Arab Spring and the activities of extremist organizations, the UAE has remained relatively peaceful and politically stable. The government and all the relevant stakeholders must make sure that they maintain the security and safety of airport ramps to make sure that the country’s aviation sector remains attractive to the global community.

The information collected from various sources strongly suggests that SMS offers an effective way of enhancing airport ramps’ security in the country. The local airports have been using various strategies to manage the safety and security of these ramps based on the guidelines provided by the GCAA, ICAO, IATA, and other international bodies in the aviation sector. Introducing SMS will not require these organizations to abandon their traditional practices. Instead, it will act as a checklist, identifying specific tasks that have to be completed, and those who should be involved to ensure that security is not compromised. SMS will eliminate cases where safety management tasks are ignored or forgotten because of poor communication and coordination among those who are responsible. The following are the recommendations for further actions on the basis of the findings made in this research:

  • The GCAA should consider integrating SMS into the normal operations of airport safety and security management at all airports in the country;
  • Effective training is needed for both the management and the junior staff when introducing SMS as a tool meant to enhance security management;
  • Adequate resources should be made available by top management units of the local airports to facilitate the integration of SMS into security management systems of these local airports;
  • Future scholars should investigate specific factors that may inhibit the effective integration of SMS into security management systems at local airports.

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