The Power of Safety Goals on Shaping Aviation Safety Culture
Goal-setting is required for every ICAO-compliant aviation SMS program. The objective of goal setting is to
- Improve an airline or airport's safety performance;
- Shape organizational safety culture, which
- Contributes to the bottom line.
There is not a defined method to guide safety managers in goal setting. Every safety manager has their preferred strategies for goal setting. Their methods are commonly based on available tools and the SMART acronym.
If you are not familiar with SMART goals, the concept states that goals should be:
- Realistic; and
Safety goals and objectives have the powerful ability to set a vision to all employees at an airline or airport. Safety managers must carefully choose and word their safety goals in order to send the right vision to the organization. Safety goals have incredible power to shape your safety culture and wrongly worded goals may send conflicting message to employees.
Creating the Vision with Aviation Safety Goals
Our western culture commonly measures accidents (or lack of) as an indicator of success. I'm not sure this is the most appropriate measure for healthy safety cultures. Does your airline or airport have safety promotion signs, like:
- xxx Days since last accident; or
- Zero Accidents is Our Goal!
These types of goals indicate that your organization is interested in measuring accidents or reducing accidents. There is no indication how you plan on achieving this goal. More appropriate goals may revolve around:
- Hazard reporting (number or safety reports);
- Safety meetings (frequency and average attendance);
- Time to close safety-related tasks (corrective actions, issues, investigations).
Again, these goals (some may call them objectives) are measuring healthy activities that contribute to the ideal goal of "Zero Accidents." The problem with goals that measure accidents is that these goals state an outcome and not an informative strategy to achieve the lofty objective of "zero accidents." This goal of "zero accidents" also stresses an importance on accidents and not on close calls, hazards or irregularities.
What Vision Do You Want to Communicate With Your Goals
What vision does your safety team want to communicate to employees when you want "Zero Accidents?"
More positive visions can be created with a statement like "135 Issues Reported" for a goal, such as "Increase hazard reporting by 10%."
I'm not saying that every goal can be worded appropriately to contribute to the organizational vision of being a safe, proactive workplace. What may be appropriate is that there are two sets of goals:
- one private set for management; and
- another public set for safety promotion.
The public set of goals is designed to shape corporate vision.
Final Thoughts on Creating Vision With Safety Goals
Properly worded safety goals and objectives have the power to shape employee behavior. Most aviation SMS programs share organizational goals and objectives with all employees. You may not be comfortable sharing all goals and objectives, but the ones you do share should be carefully considered. Structure the message in a positive light that will shape behavior. I am sincerely hoping the days of the bland "Zero Accidents is Our Goal" are over.
Learn what other tasks are common to safety managers.
Do you need help setting and tracking safety goals and objectives for your aviation SMS program? Here are three short videos of an aviation Safety-Quality Assurance Solution showing how to easily manage these tasks.