What Is a Dying Aviation Risk Management Program
Aviation safety risk management programs are on a spectrum of regression, stagnation, or improvement. What condition is your SMS?
Is your aviation risk management program dying? The truth is that it can be hard to know the current status of your SMS.
Change happens slowly. You may thing that your SMS is improving nicely, but then a year later your safety performance is struggling, and you don’t know why. We see it happen with regularity.
The fact is, that programs stagnate or die because safety management was not vigilant enough:
- Maybe the safety champion leaves
- Maybe management overly relies on safety tools to do the work for them
- Maybe management becomes complacent with safety performance
Safety performance cannot be automated. Period. You can have many automated tasks to help focus your efforts, but you can not automate your efforts. A dying program is one that is:
- No longer improving;
- Losing the push towards absolute safety vigilance; and
- Letting safety performance slip.
Here are the 3 most common reasons that safety programs die.
No Safety Champion
This is the reason we see safety programs fail the most. The scenario is common, and many of you will be familiar with it:
- Safety manager or executive spearheads the program;
- This champion pushes for risk management tools, aviation safety software, etc.;
- This champion puts in the work for safety promotion;
- This champion is vigilant about safety improvement; and
- Because of this champion’s effort, the aviation safety program is successful.
These types of people build safety programs, but they are not always sustainable. When this champion leaves, all of the effort and work that they did leaves a big hole in the company.
If another champion, or several people, don’t pick up the old champion’s work, then the program will regress or stagnate. Overcoming this struggle means:
- Finding a safety champion; or
- Mobilizing a core safety team to drive safety improvement.
This may mean investing resources in the SMS. If you don’t invest, don’t count any improvements happening.
Relying on Your Tools to Do the Work
Another common reason we see program’s fail is because safety managers rely on their risk management tools to make their safety program successful.
This is the ultimate defeatist mentality. A pair of running shoes won’t make you a better runner, they will simply allow a good runner to go further.
Great risk management tools will not make your program successful. They can help a successful program become extremely successful. They can help dedicated managers be more effective in driving safety improvement.
Safety risk management tools will not do your work for you. You still have to put in the effort. Great safety tools will simply help you be as effective as you possibly can be.
Lack of Safety Promotion
Safety promotion is by far the most underused element of safety. Oversight compliance stresses Safety Assurance and Safety Risk Management far more than safety promotion.
Safety promotion is requiring ongoing effort. It means:
- Writing safety newsletters;
- Being positive about the risk management program;
- Holding safety meetings;
- Interacting with staff and front-line employees;
- Writing safety promotional emails and other forms of communication;
- Updating safety posters to keep things “fresh” and relevant; and
- Taking safety surveys.
This work cannot be automated. It doesn’t happen by itself. It takes sustained work. If you have a great safety culture, and you slow down on your safety promotional efforts, within two years your safety culture and safety performance will taper off. Two years of sustained safety promotional efforts will result in at least decent safety culture.
We see both scenarios happen again and again.
Final Thought: How to Know If Your SMS Is Dying
The most important question you have to ask yourself now is, Is my SMS dying? There are several things to take into account here:
- Do you have a safety champion?
- Do you have a sustained safety promotion strategy?
- How is the safety culture now vs one year ago (i.e., use safety culture surveys!)?
- How are you leveraging your risk management tools?
Your answers to these questions will indicate what kind of performance you can expect a year or two from now:
- If you have a limited or sporadic safety promotional strategy, expect limited safety performance;
- If you don’t have a safety champion, achieving continuous improvement will be much harder; and
- Your risk management tools should aid an already solid, well rounded effort for improving your aviation safety program.