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Importance of ethical behavior according to AS9100 Rev D

When using the requirements of AS9100 Rev D to create your aerospace quality management system (QMS), you will find that  some of them refer to ensuring that people understand the importance of ethical behavior. So, what does ethical behavior according to AS9100 mean and what do you need to do to ensure that these requirements are implemented?

What is meant by ethical behavior?

The AS9100 Rev D standard does not give a definition of ethical behavior, nor does the website of the International Aerospace Quality Group which maintains the AS9100 standard, even though the term appears in two requirements. By general definition ethical behavior means acting consistently with what society considers as good values. Additionally, it aims to include fairness, honesty, dignity, equality, diversity and individual rights. This requirement for honesty and doing things right is important in many industries, but does not appear in the ISO 9001:2015 requirements that AS9100 Rev D is based on, so why does the aerospace industry focus on this?

The reasoning will come from understanding the application of the AS9100 standard. Companies in the aerospace field are responsible for providing components to aircraft where safety is paramount, mechanisms to the defense industry where the lives of soldiers may be on the line, and parts for the space industry where expensive satellites cannot be fixed after they are in orbit. With this level of risk, including human safety, the need for people to be honest and follow the rules is of critical importance.

Another topic related to ethical behavior which has been added to the AS9100 Rev D requirements is the control of counterfeit parts. To find out more about this, see the article: Practical guidance on preventing counterfeit parts by applying AS9100 Rev D.

What does AS 9100 Rev D require for ethical behavior?

Ethical behavior is mentioned in two clauses of the standard, both times using the wording “the importance of ethical behavior.” Here is what is stated in the standard:

Clause 7.3 Awareness. The awareness clause includes a list of items that persons doing work under the organization’s control must be aware of. These include things like the quality policy, how they contribute to QMS effectiveness and what happens if they do not follow the QMS rules. Also, included in this list of things to be aware of is the importance of ethical behavior. It is important to note that this is not meant just for employees, but for anyone under your control who does QMS activities, i.e. temporary workers.

Clause 8.4.2 Information for external providers. This clause refers to the information that you need to include in your requirements for suppliers or partners outside of your company who are providing you with processes, products or services. Along with gathering all of the information to make sure you get what you need from them (such as the performance requirements and personnel qualifications), is ensuring that the external provider personnel are aware of the importance of ethical behavior.

AS9100 Rev D ethical behavior – Why is it important?

To summarize the standard: you need to guarantee that everyone working to provide your products and services, both internally and externally, must understand how important it is to be honest and follow the rules. Processes must be done as planned, performance requirements checked honestly and fixed if they are not adequate, and inspections need to be thorough and correctly reported.

So, what does this mean to you and how will it be checked? As with all of the requirements for awareness, the certification auditors (as well as any customer auditors) may ask anyone they are auditing to demonstrate that they understand everything on the list (such as the quality policy) and how it applies to them. When they review documents and records, they will be looking for evidence that these were done correctly and completely, including your documented instructions to external providers and the records they submit with the processes, and products and services they provide. In short, the assessment of the knowledge of ethical behavior will be included in all of the documentation review during the audit.

Why is ethical behavior necessary to you?

While meeting these requirements is important to attain certification to AS9100, it is easy to see that this is also important for the ongoing success of your business. Companies who act unethically, through such acts as falsifying data or accepting products that do not meet the requirements, will quickly find that they are not only penalized by their customers but also removed from working in the aerospace industry. The legal requirements that are imposed on aircraft, space and defense contractors rely on ethical behavior by all employees, and failure to comply will mean you are no longer welcome.

With all of the human safety risks that are inherent in the aerospace industry, from aircraft safety to the safety of soldiers, it is critical that everyone acts ethically.

To see how ethical behavior fits into other AS9100 clauses, download this free white paper: Clause-by-clause explanation of AS9100 Rev D.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.