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Safety Chart: Stay on Top of Aviation Safety Promotion with SMS Newsletters

Posted by Tyler Britton on May 6, 2021 6:00:00 AM

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Safety Chart: Stay on Top of Aviation Safety Promotion with SMS Newsletters

Aviation safety promotion is all about creating interest and mindfulness about safety behavior. And repeating without end...

More broadly, safety promotion is a method of shifting stakeholders' focus of their aviation safety management system (SMS) resources and processes towards a safety mindset. To this end, aviation safety newsletters are among the most powerful safety promotional tools for:

  • championing hazard awareness;
  • reducing resistance to change;
  • increasing hazard identification skills;
  • improving safety reporting metrics; and
  • broadcasting safety policy statements.

Related Aviation Safety Newsletter Articles

Too often, safety newsletters in aviation SMS are

  • frequently overlooked,
  • sporadically published,
  • poorly developed visually, or
  • simply non-existent.

This is because developing safety newsletters can be time consuming, and takes managers away from other pressing duties in their aviation SMS implementation. We see this trend not at just large airlines, but also at:

  • Airports;
  • Aviation maintenance organizations;
  • Complex FBO operations;
  • ANSPs; and
  • On-demand charter operators.

Newsletters' tasks are time consuming when you consider the amounts of time and energy to accumulate content and publish on a repeatable schedule.

When safety newsletters are published at operators with aviation SMS, it becomes very difficult to determine whether a particular "safety effect" occurred that can be directly attributed to the safety newsletter. It make take several months to measure a noticeable effect from safety newsletters. You will also need efficient data monitoring tools to collect statistical data to confirm any "safety effect."

When companies have no way to measure the effectiveness of safety newsletter campaigns, then their willingness to devote resources to developing safety newsletters diminishes according to their ability to measure and monitor campaign activities. This is especially true for companies employing unsophisticated SMS data management strategies that use spreadsheets and paper to manage the SMS.

Even operators that use an array of cobbled-together point solutions to manage SMS documentation requirements may have difficulty measuring and monitoring a safety newsletter's effectiveness. This is why integrated aviation SMS databases are more effective at managing SMS documentation. All SMS documentation is managed within a centralized data management platform. It is common for a complete SMS database to manage multiple, seemingly independent, but inter-related systems, including:

  • Safety reporting system;
  • Risk management system;
  • Auditing system;
  • Goal setting and tracking system;
  • SMS performance monitoring system;
  • Flight duty time monitoring system;
  • SMS training management system; and
  • Safety promotion systems with safety newsletters, safety messages, and safety culture surveys.

Take Safety Culture

Integrated SMS databases allow safety teams to publish safety newsletters and also measure subsequent risk management activities. Better yet, these SMS databases also have real-time performance monitoring dashboards that can assist in safety promotion activities.

Related Aviation SMS Database Articles

SMS Databases Increase Safety Managers Effectiveness Using Newsletters

Safety managers become more effective at their jobs when they can demonstrate return on investment from their SMS safety promotion efforts. But to demonstrate the "safety effect," you will need an efficient method of managing safety newsletter data and seek to correlate safety promotion activities with safety reporting and hazard identification activities.

Having an interactive safety newsletter tool with quick access to viewing safety newsletters gives managers and employees the ability to:

  • Access newsletters from a convenient location;
  • Stay consistent in publishing safety content;
  • Increase transparency in the SMS' risk management processes;
  • Correlate publication dates to significant hazard reporting or safety culture data; and
  • Easily organize topics that are covered with each newsletter.
Safety Newsletters Dashboard Chart

And the content? Safety newsletters often try to squeeze “educational content” out of every sentence. This is a mistake. Newsletters should be:

  • Concise;
  • Focus on being upbeat, fun, and/or informative;
  • Function to announce, reward, or inform on recent/upcoming safety information.

Another mistake companies make regarding safety newsletters is limiting the various methods of publishing safety content. The more publishing strategies, the better. The most commonly used newsletter publishing strategies are:

  • Email;
  • Paper flyers;
  • PDF on shared network drive; or on
  • Safety message board?

We usually see two or three tactics employed at most companies when they publish their quarterly safety newsletter. Another tactic to supplement traditional newsletter publishing tactics is to make safety newsletters available in an SMS performance monitoring dashboard. For example, when you look at the above report, you will see a small table with the latest safety newsletters that were directed to me from my safety portal. There is an "information link" at the right of each row that opens the safety newsletter for me to read. These newsletters were directed to me based on my position or role in the SMS.

For the remainder of this article, we'll discuss this safety chart which belongs to an SMS performance monitoring dashboard. This chart is very small and quite unobtrusive, yet is an integral part of any safety newsletter strategy. While this performance monitoring chart seems rather easy to diagnose and use, you may be surprised at what this chart does for the accountable executive! This should become one of the accountable executive's go-to charts to determine the frequency of safety promotion activity in the SMS.

Related Aviation Safety Performance Monitoring Articles

What This Safety Promotion Chart Reveals about Your SMS

In many ways, safety newsletter publishing schedules are demonstrative of management’s commitment to safety in their aviation SMS.

Just consider the following questions:

  • How often are safety newsletters being published?
  • How consistent is the publishing schedule?
  • Are newsletters being published at all?
  • Are the newsletters content/style consistent?
  • Are safety newsletters easily accessible?

Answers to these questions are indicative of several things. If the answers to the above questions contain:

  • “No”
  • “Not often,” or
  • “Not consistent,”

-then the immediate concern is: what other aviation safety promotion efforts are being performed instead? Or the question that may plague the accountable executive's mind is "Which other safety promotion activities are also being neglected?"

Granted, it has been pointed out in other articles that operators can and do practice an effective aviation safety culture, safety mindset, and maintain healthy safety reporting cultures with little to no safety promotion efforts. However I would say this is the exception, not the rule.

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Safety Newsletters Effectively Change Safety Cultures

In immature SMS implementations, safety promotion activities will play a critical role in garnering support for the widespread changes brought on by the SMS. Newsletters are particularly effective because they can swiftly and ubiquitously be dispersed to all members participating in the SMS.

Operators with traditional safety programs most likely already published safety newsletters. You can use these newsletters to promote the SMS changes. Most of these noticeable changes to employees will fall into these broad categories:

  • Required SMS training;
  • Safety policy endorsed by upper management;
  • Protections from management for self reporting errors and mistakes;
  • Upper management involvement; and
  • Accountability.

All of these topics are excellent to discuss briefly in safety newsletters. So if you are having brain fog and cannot find fodder for your safety newsletter articles, use the aforementioned suggestions. Another idea for safety newsletter articles is tied to your SMS performance monitoring charts. They are colorful and allow employees to see management's safety goals and objectives.

Watch Out for These 4 Safety Newsletter Mistakes

When reviewing this safety chart, there are several things to pay particular attention to:

Safety Newsletters Dashboard Chart
  1. The total number of published newsletters within a given time period (i.e., one year);
  2. How consistently (in terms of days apart) the newsletters were published;
  3. The most recent date of publication; and
  4. A preview of recent publications.

The last two bullet points are important in that they are useful for informing when your next safety newsletters should be published, and what style/content it should contain.

Newsletter publication frequency and content whose style is inconsistent will seem dubious at best – consistent visual and content styling is on par with higher quality, more professional safety newsletter publications. Safety newsletter templates can act as a nice quick strategy for creating professional-looking newsletters. You may already use a newsletter template, or your SMS database may have one already installed.

If your SMS database has a safety newsletter publishing feature, there may be template builder. These templates really are time savers for generating and ultimately publishing content. The SMS Pro database has the ability to create and store a variety of document templates; however, we recommend that you don't have too many newsletter templates. Consistent publishing styles are a best practice, but yet, don't be afraid to try new approaches when readers complain about your newsletter formats.

Best practices for safety newsletter design:

  • Keep it simple;
  • Keep it consistent; and
  • Don't be afraid to change.

I have seen many exceptionally beautiful safety newsletter designs. When I look at them, I know I cannot compete with such good design. In these cases, the above advise is doubly true for people like me (non-designers), as I have created some very terrible looking newsletter templates in my earlier years.

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How to Create This Safety Newsletter Chart

If you are building this chart for your SMS database or dashboard, these following pointers may help.

This chart can be created in several different ways, depending on your data source.

Some aviation SMS data managers will manually input and track publication data, such as

  • Publication dates,
  • Short highlight title or main description, and
  • Insert a preview of the newsletter.

This would most conveniently happen in an Excel spreadsheet or similar tool.

A second way this data would be generated is from a professional aviation SMS database, where the ability to publish newsletters is integrated with the database and is automatically tracked. In this case, these newsletters can be read and monitored from the SMS' performance monitoring dashboard. Most dashboards have static chart data, but this report is special and serves multiple purposes based on the user reviewing the data.

Creating this chart manually will be a non-starter for most safety managers.

For safety managers using spreadsheet SMS as their data management strategy, they may aggregate a report like this once per year for management review. When this safety promotion data is in an integrated SMS database, management can easily monitor safety promotion activities in real-time. The accountable executive does not need to bother the safety team for such a commonly requested report when it is sitting in the SMS' performance monitoring dashboard.

Related Aviation Safety Performance Monitoring Articles

Safety Performance Monitoring Workflow for Aviation SMS

Does This Safety Newsletter Chart Relate to SMS Requirements?

Yes, it definitely does.

Clearly, safety newsletters are at the core of the Safety Promotion component of the aviation SMS' four pillars.

Newsletter publications frequency charts also demonstrate to auditors the proof that your aviation SMS has ongoing safety performance activity, both in terms of

  • prescriptive performance and
  • custom performance goals.

This is a big deal for mature SMS implementations. Regulatory authorities are looking to ensure "the lights are still on six years or eight years into the SMS implementation." How many newsletters have been published this year?

Moreover, while not technically an aviation SMS requirement, newsletters relate very strongly to addressing Apathy in Human Factors. Safety promotion tools can help generate interest, a sense of fun, and being “in the know” with the safety "team."

Accountable executives are responsible for ensuring the SMS is implemented and operational throughout the organization. In order to monitor SMS performance, the accountable executive will need data points that can indicate SMS performance. Safety newsletter publishing frequency provides the accountable executive with the assurance that the safety manager is doing his job.

"Are safety reporting numbers down?" wonders the accountable executive. How many safety newsletters are going out to the employees that advertise/promote the aviation SMS? In short, safety newsletters publishing frequency may become a key performance indicator (KPI) in your SMS.

Related Aviation Key Performance Indicator Articles

Finally, newsletters can also be a beacon of Just Culture and safety transparency. They provide a great place to recap important trends in the SMS' historical performance, and allow management to demonstrate their efforts for being open and honest about the safety program.

Final Thought: Management’s AND Employees’ Concern

Management and employees should care about this chart for two different reasons. For aviation safety officers, this chart's proof of safety promotion activity will come in handy for correlating promotion with safety data, as well as during audits.

Employees should be concerned that management is arming them with the knowledge and motivation to

  • care about the SMS;
  • understand their protections from management for self-reporting errors and mistake;
  • identify safety hazards;
  • anticipate changes; and
  • be cognizant of their safety behavior.

Safety managers commonly ignore the fourth SMS pillar. Safety promotion does not have to be hard, but it does require consistency and good tools to manage the results. Otherwise, safety promotion will fail and the SMS will never become fully performance. Safety reporting cultures depend on safety promotion activities, such as safety newsletters.

If you need a low-cost, commercially available SMS database to manage all your SMS documentation requirements, SMS Pro can help. Since 2007, SMS Pro has been working with aviation service providers on the SMS data management needs.

Learn how we can help you. These short demo videos explain the breadth of the robust, SMS Pro database.

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Published June 2016. Last updated May 2021.

Pilot image by Ninian Reid on flickr

Topics: 4-Safety Promotion

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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