Why Is Safety Culture So Important?
In many of today's articles about aviation safety management systems, there is something about safety culture. Why? Safety culture ties into every part of your SMS, feeding it as your SMS nurtures your safety culture in return.
It’s a symbiotic relationship, like honeybees and flowers. Each one needs the other to grow and thrive. When your safety culture thrives, your SMS is easier to build and maintain.
So, how do we feed our safety culture in our day-to-day operations?
It all comes down to building trust.
How Does Trust Improves Safety Culture?
Below are 5 simple ideas to help your organization enhance your safety culture.
1. Building Safety Culture Using Everyday Communication
Communication is the simplest thing we can do to build a positive safety culture. Emails, newsletters, and flyers are all effective methods.
Beyond those methods, encourage conversations about safety throughout your organization. If possible, make safety a small part of each interaction you have.
Communicate often about the importance of safety. As you do, staff will begin to internalize the message. As they do, talking about safety will become a habit.
2. Reliable Training
Training takes communication to the next level. By providing regular safety training, you're "putting your money where your mouth is."
When you take the time to train your staff, you're doing more than keeping them up to date. Training demonstrates your organization’s commitment to safety.
By showing your employees that you're willing to take the time to train them, you build trust. As employees come to trust that safety does matter, your safety culture will continue to grow.
3. Lead by Example
This goes hand in hand with the advice that you should secure top management buy in. Management leading by example is a great way to get everyone on board.
When management walks the walk, so to speak, employees can tell. It also builds trust that the program is more than lip-service.
Like training, leading by example demonstrates a commitment to safety. The commitment at the top is contagious. When staff sees that management values safety, they will follow suit.
4. Hazard Reporting Process Affects Safety Culture
Non-punitive reporting is another component of your SMS that supports safety culture. By building trust in the non-punitive system, you encourage your staff to report.
Non-punitive reporting also builds trust in your organization’s commitment to safety. Show employees that safety is more important than a scapegoat.
5. Safety Cultures Thrive with Empowered Employees
Finally, empower your employees and make them a part of the system. Ask for their feedback and act on it whenever possible.
Your front-line employees know the most about day-to-day operations. Their feedback is invaluable. Empirical evidence based on ten years worth of data shows that 30% of employee suggestions are implemented in aviation safety management systems. This statistic includes companies with both healthy and toxic cultures. I'm willing to bet that aviation organizations with healthy safety cultures have a higher rate of listening to employee suggestions.
By listening, you build trust and encourage them to add more to your SMS. This is also a crucial part of your safety culture.
More Resources on Safety Culture
There are many resources available on safety culture. While many are not tailored for the aviation industry, the principles remain the same. For an in depth treatment of safety culture, check out this book or google safety culture.
Do you have any recommendations or stories of how you improved your safety culture? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Published October 2018. Last updated July 2020.