Be Aware of Your Aviation Risk Management Myths
Awareness is a great weapon for overcoming problems aviation risk management programs. When aviation safety managers try and implement a safety program while at the same time clinging to myths:
- People get hurt;
- The company loses money; and
- The safety program makes no progress.
Myths plague aviation implementation – we’ve all been guilty at one time or another. It’s part of the learning curve.
Here are 3 myths aviation safety management struggle with when SMS implementation is getting started.
Myth #1 Risk Management Program Will Improve Safety
How many risk management programs are there out there that are simply a showpiece? The answer is many. Whether it’s a program wrapped in aviation SMS software or an SMS manual, such SMS programs have no bearing on the daily operations of the organizations in which they exist.
For example, we have had numerous clients in the past where nobody logged in to their safety portal in months. Such programs illustrate the fact that a risk management program can make no difference for safety. For a risk management program to work:
- It needs to be interacted with by all employees;
- Safety management needs to push the program by providing incentives for it;
- Safety management needs to demonstrate the kind of safety culture needed for a successful program;
- The risk management program needs a safety champion.
Without all or at least some of the above points, a safety program will remain limp and useless. A risk management program is a tool, and like any tool it’s only useful if it’s being used.
Myth #2 Aviation Safety Manager Owns the Safety Program
Aviation safety manager do not own the risk management program – the manage it. In fact, the accountable executive (e.g., CEO) is person who owns the safety program.
The safety manager facilitates safe operations, but the accountable executive is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the aviation risk management program. The executive is usually:
- Responsible for garnering budgets;
- Has the “final word” on safety decisions;
- Oversees both quality and safety operations; and
- Is charged with incorporating quality and safety equally.
Safety managers answer to the accountable executive. It is for this reason that safety programs depend on upper management's support. When executives and or safety managers do not understand this:
- Needed safety tasks “fall through the cracks”;
- The safety program does not receive the upper management support that it needs; and
- Safety managers are tasked with responsibilities that are far beyond the scope of both their ability and responsibility to perform.
Myth #3 Employees Will Be Open to Risk Management
It seems in every employee’s best interest to be open to a risk management program. After all, having a safety program means better workplace safety. Yet, resistance to SMS programs is probably the most common problems organizations face. Resistance can be:
- Managers who attempt to undercut or navigate around the prescribed procedures of the safety program;
- Upper management/executives who refuses to provide the program with the necessary resources or attention the program needs to be successful; and
- Front line employees who don’t report issues, don’t try and improve safety behavior, or continue to cut corners when the boss isn’t watching.
Resistance is a central source of frustration for safety managers everywhere. It’s probably why
- Turnover in aviation safety management is surprisingly high; and
- Why private consulting is often very desirable in the aviation industry.
Resistance will happen at one point or another in every program – in fact it will probably never go away. Keeping it at bay will take persistence.
Final Thought: Doing Implementation Over Again
Probably all aviation safety managers would make at least some different decisions if they were to redo aviation SMS implementation. Implementations are marathons, not sprints.
Safety culture doesn’t happen overnight. The above myths all reference incorrect expectations about safety culture in one way or another.
This SMS implementation checklist will prove helpful as you implement your risk management program.