What is Confidence in Aviation Safety Programs?
Confidence in aviation safety programs is trust that the SMS program fulfills its obligations. The obligations of SMS include, of course, safety. But they don’t just include safety. The fact is that aviation safety programs that set out to only satisfy good-looking safety data will plateau or even implode before long.
Aviation SMS programs fulfill obligations by building:
- Comprehensive history of documentation;
- Policies and procedures that encompass most/all workings of SMS;
- Positive safety culture (follow the link to see what “positive safety culture” means);
- Informative safety data;
- Proof of compliance;
- Records of continuous improvement.
Confidence in aviation safety programs means that people (employees, customers, investors, etc.) trust that the safety program is addressing the above points.
Confidence in SMS is Quality Assurance
Ultimately, quality management in any organization cannot be successful without the success of the safety program. This is because when serious safety incidents occur in the aviation industry, it tends to have disastrous effects in the company:
- For employee moral;
- For reputation (which is similar to financially); and
- For confidence in the safety program.
So it’s also important to understand that confidence in the aviation safety program isn’t just about safety, it’s about Safety Quality Assurance and the success of all aspects of the organization.
Improve Confidence in Employees
Perhaps the most crucial area to improve confidence is with employees. After all, it is the employees who will ultimately determine the performance success of the program though:
- Hazard identification;
- Hazard reporting;
- Practicing positive safety culture;
- Following prescribed policies, procedures, checklists, etc.; and
- Other quality safety behavior.
In short, employees are responsible for the first half of the risk management cycle. It’s also the half that risk management depends on – if there are no issues to manage then risk management can’t happen.
Improving confidence in SMS program for employees should be considered in the following ways:
- Safety management should be interacting with employees regularly – there should be regular communication between safety management and employees;
- Safety management needs to include employees in change management so as to instill the sense that it is the employees program;
- Safety management needs to listen and act upon the suggestions of employees (they need to feel that opinion matters); and
- Safety management needs to make a sincere effort and creating quality aviation safety training and other safety promotional aspects.
Most of the points above revolve around safety communication and safety awareness. These two things can do more for inspiring confidence than just about anything else.
Improve Safety Program Confidence in Upper Management
Inspiring confidence in upper management is slightly more straightforward that employees because upper management is much less “involved” in the safety program. That being said, there should be a designated person in upper management who takes ownership of the program.
Assuming this individual (such as a CEO) is supportive, this person will want to see 3 primary things out of the safety program:
- Safety program is being implemented and meeting implementation deadlines;
- Safety program is demonstrating continuous improvement; and
- Safety compliance is being met (no fines).
Basically, what we are talking about is that upper management cares that the SMS program is not a lame duck. That would be a waste of financial resources, and a gateway into civil and public scrutiny (i.e., regulatory fines would probably make their way to the public).
Demonstrating that the program is meeting the above points can be done through:
- Safety data, such as leading indicators and safety performance monitoring;
- Results of gap analysis or internal inspections; and
- With implementation plans.
Safety Confidence with Public Consumers
Public consumers really care about one thing most of all from aviation service providers:
This one element of aviation service providers is so important that a single accident can result as much as 25% declines in business. In the case of Malaysian airlines, 2 crashes in a single year resulted in bankruptcy. The best way to summarize the relationship between aviation SMS and the public is that safety is the business stabilizer. When things are safe, business tends to be stable.
Demonstrating a secure safety track record can be a significant marketing and sales resource for aviation companies. It involves:
- Finding several statistics that “exemplify” the safety track record; and
- Making them extremely visible to the public.
Improve Investor Confidence in Safety Program
Investors are important. Often with serious safety incidents occur, the most losses don’t come through lost in public consumer confidence, but due to loss of investor confidence. A historical precedent is that stock prices always take a dive after incidents.
Whereas a 20% loss of consumer business might cause marginal business losses, a 20% loss in stock prices could be worth ten-fold whatever losses occur from consumer business. The single best way to inspire confidence is:
- Show the return on investment for the aviation SMS program.
Return on investment is a powerful tool for inspiring investor confidence because:
- It shows fiscal responsibility and savviness on the part of the business;
- It’s proof that the safety program is working; and
- It’s the kind of proof that “speaks the same language” as investors.
Confidence starts with safety performance monitoring. You know how to inspire confidence, and what you need to improve in order to gain more confidence, you need to monitor safety performance. This guide will help you do that: