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20 Indicators What Good Aviation Safety Culture Looks Like [With Free Checklist]

Posted by Tyler Britton on Jul 11, 2018 4:17:00 AM

Defining Good Safety Culture in Aviation SMS

Indicators of good safety culture in aviation SMSSafety culture will be the last thing to develop in your SMS.

Once you fully implement your SMS design (Phase 3 of SMS implementation), you will need to monitor your SMS to ensure it is functioning as designed. Aviation safety programs with good safety cultures usually operate as designed.  

Having good safety culture helps you complete Phase 4 of SMS implementation. Broadly speaking, a good safety culture is one that is characterized by:

  • Consistent hazard reporting;
  • Acceptance of the SMS;
  • Lack of silos and other forms of resistance to the SMS;
  • Safety behaviors defined by safety awareness;
  • Commitment to on time, thorough safety management; and
  • Upper management support.

Good safety culture is indicated in:

  • The work management has done to support safe behaviors;
  • The amount of safety awareness employees demonstrate; and
  • The quality of resources provided by accountable manager.

Here are 20 indicators of what good aviation safety culture looks like.

Download aviation safety culture checklist

Hazard Reporting System is Fully Implemented

Your hazard reporting system is the foundation of your SMS. Through it, you will:

  • Collect mission critical data;
  • Identify new concerns; and
  • Facilitate continuous improvement of the SMS.

Resource: Hazard Reporting System Checklist

Employees Follow Reporting Guidelines

Your reporting guidelines should help guide employees on important issue reporting questions, like:

  • How soon do I need to report my issue?
  • Will I get in trouble if I report this?
  • Will I get blamed if I report this?
  • Do I need to report this, or is it optional?

These questions may be answered in multiple safety policies. When employees stick to the guidelines you have laid out, it indicates good safety culture.

Resource: How to Make Hazard Reporting Easier

List of Mandatory/Voluntary Issue Reporting Has Been Created

An essential part of creating reporting guidelines and documenting which issues:

  • MUST be reported when identified (mandatory); and
  • CAN be reported when identified (voluntary).

Having this list in your SMS indicates that you have carefully thought out which issues are the most important to your SMS.

Resource: Mandatory vs. Voluntary Issues

Employees Have Several Ways to Report Issues

Offering at least several ways to report issues is a great way to encourage a productive hazard reporting culture. Some good ways are:

  • Standard hazard reporting process;
  • Email;
  • Offline; or
  • Via a public link.

Resource: What Good Hazard Reporting Process Looks Like in Real SMS

Employees Report Issues Within 24 Hours of Identification

When employees regularly report issues in a timely manner, it indicates that employees are dedicated to making management aware of safety. Many organizations struggle in this area, and it is not uncommon to have issues reported several days after occurrence.

Resource: How Active is Your Hazard Reporting Culture

Audit/Inspections Are Facilitated Regularly

Regular audits and inspections demonstrate a willingness towards proactive risk management. They help you uncover potential concerns before those concerns lead to hazard occurrence. In best case scenarios:

  • Inspections are carried out on consistent basis, such as once per month;
  • Internal audits are carried out on a consistent basis, such as twice per year; and
  • All findings are corrected swiftly.

Reactive: How to Prepare for SMS Audits

Few Issues Stem from Not Following Procedures

Employees who follow prescribed procedures and other resources, such as checklists, policies, etc., demonstrate high quality safety behavior. An awareness and willingness to accept the SMS is a hallmark of good safety culture.

Resource: How Procedures Assist in Aviation Risk Management

Many Routine Tasks Have Checklists

When many routine tasks have checklists, it shows that management is willing to put in the work, time, and effort to develop resources for good safety behavior. Having checklists provides employees:

  • Guidance;
  • Workflow; and
  • A “trust but verify” attitude.

Resource: Checklist for Proactive Safety Culture

A Complete Emergency Response Plan Has Been Created

An emergency response plan provides critical guidance in high risk, stressful situations (emergencies). This guidance includes:

  • How to act;
  • Who to contact; and
  • What resources to use.

Resource: Emergency Response Plan Checklist

There are No Management Silos

Management silos demonstrate that not everyone in your SMS accepts the SMS. Managers who develop silos would rather do things “their way,” and put the emphasis on:

  • Their personal abilities; rather than
  • The system.

Usually this stems from a manager feeling insecure about their position.

Resource: How Managers Can Deal With Silo Mentality

More Than 90% of Issues and CPAs are Closed on Time

On time issue and on time corrective preventative action closure is an excellent way to measure management’s commitment to continuous improvement. When issues and CPAs are constantly closed late, it shows a poor personal investment and care for the SMS.

Resource: Charts to Monitor Safety Culture Performance

There is a Safety Budget Adequate for Quality Safety Resources

Safety budget is a great indication how dedication the accountable executive is to your SMS. Safety programs with good budgets have a huge advantage over those that don’t, both in terms of:

  • Available resources that can be acquired; and
  • Ability of the SMS to survive safety manager turnover.

Resource: How Safety Managers Get Budgets

Employees Receive Consistent Feedback

It’s definitely a best practice to give employees feedback:

  • After they report an issue, such as to say thank you for reporting; and
  • After a reporter’s reported issues is fully managed, such as to inform them of what changes were made.

Resource: How to Identify Hazards in SMS

Employees Personally Know Safety Manager

When employees know their safety manager personally, it shows that the safety manager has taken the time to personally interact with them. This is a good way to “put a face on the SMS.” When employees understand that the SMS has great personal effort behind managing it, they will be more likely to accept it.

Resource: 4 Qualifications of SMS Safety Manager

Accountable Executive Shows Active Support for Safety Program

Accountable executives show active support for an SMS by:

  • Ensuring good budget;
  • Participating in safety meetings;
  • Performing safety assurance operations once or twice per year; and
  • Stay in regular communication with safety managers who are stewards for the safety program.

Resource: How to Fix Accountable Executive’s Dilemma in SMS

Change Management is Always Communicated to Relevant Employees

No employee likes to feel that changes are simply happening to them, without their awareness or knowledge. Communicating change management involves:

  • Informing employees of upcoming change;
  • Getting feedback about change; and
  • Informing employees of changes made.

Resource: What is Change Management

Safety Meetings are Held Frequently

Studies show a direct correlation between number and frequency of safety meetings and level of safety in the organization. Safety managers know this, and taking the time and effort to ensure that meetings are held is one good way to demonstrate good safety culture.

Resource: Safety Topics

All Employees Receive Hazard Identification Training

Hazard identification needs to happen on an initial and recurring basis. It’s one of the sole ways employees will understand:

  • What a hazard is;
  • What objects, behaviors, and other root causes lead to hazard occurrence; and
  • What hazard looks like in operational environment.

Resource: Hazard Risk Fluency Quiz

All Employees Receive Initial and Recurring SMS Training

Initial and recurring SMS training help keep your employees informed on the safety program:

  • Initial SMS training: introduces employees to SMS and mission critical elements, such as policies, processes, roles, etc.;
  • Recurrent SMS training: ensures that employees continue to understand and are aware of the SMS and mission critical elements.

Resource: Best Way To Automate Initial and Recurrent Training

Surveys and Other Feedback Methods are Used

If you are familiar with this blog, you know how often I bring up safety surveys. It’s because they are stellar tools for gathering feedback about:

  • Shortcoming of SMS;
  • What SMS is doing well; and
  • How employees feel about SMS.

Resource:  Safety Survey Templates

Topics: Safety Culture

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body.

 

 

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