What Aviation SMS Needs for Successful Hazard Reporting
Aviation SMS needs input from three levels of your organization to be successful. Without total involvement of your company, hazard reporting will fail.
The three levels of your company and their corresponding responsibility for setting up a successful hazard reporting program are:
- Administrative – providing resources (financial, policy)
- Managerial – appropriate action on reported issues
- Staff – reporting identified concerns
If administrators don’t provide resources then employees have little incentive to report.
If managers don’t take action on reported issues then employees will not report issues.
If employees don’t report issues, then continuous improvement cannot happen.
With this triad of hazard reporting elements in mind, here are indicators of good hazard reporting culture in aviation safety management systems.
You Have Implemented a Formal Hazard Reporting System
A hazard reporting system is the foundation of continuous improvement in your aviation safety program by identification, reporting, and correction. It is also a good starting point for building good safety culture.
Implementing a formal hazard reporting system means:
- Having a hazard reporting process;
- Documenting that process in your SMS manual;
- Identifying roles for managing reporting issues; and
- Allocating financial resources for hazard reporting, such as software, hazard reporting forms creation, etc.
Basically, a formal hazard reporting system provides:
- Standard way to report issues; and
- Full documentation for how do report issues.
Documenting it ensures good audits results in this area and gives you a framework to improve your process where possible. Having a formal hazard reporting system requires upper management to commit financial resources, and the safety team to implement the system.
All Employees Have Hazard Identification Training
A formal hazard reporting system is fairly worthless if employees don’t report issues. We see this problem all the time. Problems with hazard reporting culture generally stem from three causes:
- Lack of safety culture (i.e., apathy);
- Poor management (i.e., they don’t act on reported issues); and
- Employees not knowing what to report.
If your staff can’t identify hazards, they won’t report them. Providing hazard identification training:
- Gets staff in the habit of thinking in terms of safety;
- Gives specific examples of hazards to watch out for; and
- Trains staff on the benefits of reporting.
Hazard identification training should be provided to ALL employees because hazards exist at every level of an organization. All employees means:
- Front line employees;
- Administrative staff; and
- Executive management.
Ensuring that all employees receive hazard identification training necessitate that upper management provides the financial resources and scheduling to ensure that this happens.
Employees Have Several Ways to Report Issues
Offering only one way to report issues, such as with a paper form, offers zero incentive for employees to report issues. The more methods you offer for employees to report issues, the more employees will report issues.
Some ways employees should be able to report issues include:
- Paper forms;
- Calling your safety manager;
- Text message;
- Via safety management software;
- Offline; and
- Mobile devices.
The more options the better, so long as your organization can capably track and manage various reports.
Employees Report Issues Within 24 Hours
Something many aviation service providers struggle with is getting employees to report in a timely manner. It’s not uncommon for employees to wait several days or more to report concerns. Is this something you deal with in your organization?
A mark of a great hazard reporting program is when employees usually report issues within 24 hours, meaning:
- The day the safety concern was identified; or
- The following day the safety concern was identified.
Even reporting within 48 hours is desirable. You can make a company policy of reporting within a certain time period, though this may give incentives against reporting for employees that wait. Your best bet to get employees to report within 24 hours are:
- Reward employees who report quickly (i.e., acknowledge in newsletter);
- Offer many ways to report; and
- Stress importance of reporting quickly in your hazard identification training programs.
Employees Receive Consistent Feedback on Reported Issues
When employees don’t receive feedback on their issues, it may send the message that management doesn’t value reporting. Consistent feedback tells employees that you value their effort. Remember, reporting issues is an additional action that goes above and beyond their daily work duties.
Feedback is best given as:
- Direct acknowledgement of the report:
- Thanking the employee
- Getting more information
- Offer critique for future reporting
- Allowing reporters to see what actions are taken on their report; and
- Following up with employee when report is closed.
You need to communicate to employees that their reports matter and effect change. Feedback is the best way to do this.
You Have Hazard Reporting Policies
Good hazard reporting policies most helpful as training materials rather than “rules.” Good hazard reporting policies your aviation SMS should have are:
- Non punitive reporting policy;
- Mandatory vs. voluntary report types;
- Procedure for reporting issues;
- Guidelines for submitting issues (i.e., requirements for time period, critical information, report type guidance, etc.).
These policies should be short and to the point and allow employees to easily skim and understand what is expected in your organization when reporting issues.
Employees Follow Hazard Reporting Policies
Of course, policies are only as useful as how well employees actually follow them. It’s a very good sign when you see your policies being followed. But how do you know if employees are following your reporting policies?
One way to monitor this is through classifications. When issues are reported, you can classify if the report was made within guidelines or not. Over the course of months and years, you will be able to track trends in how well employees follow guidelines.
Another way to monitor this is through anonymous surveys. Simply ask employees if they feel they can safety report without fear of retaliation.
Finally, you can quiz employees on your hazard reporting system to ensure that they understand:
- Process for reporting issues;
- Reporting forms; and
- Other reporting policy factors.