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3 Traits Good Aviation Safety Auditors Share

Posted by Tyler Britton on Jun 8, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Safety Auditors Are a Rare Breed of Personality Traits

3 Traits Good Aviation Safety Auditors Share

Good aviation safety auditors play a vital role in the ability of an aviation safety management system (SMS) to identify

  • substandard safety performance; and
  • ways in which the SMS can improve.

Furthermore, safety auditors provide oversight to ensure regulatory and contractual obligations are fulfilled. This oversight is one method of data collection in an SMS' Safety Assurance (SA) component.

Aviation safety auditors have a very hard job for several different reasons.

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Safety Auditors Not Commonly Welcomed with Open Arms

Safety auditors are not universally welcomed. The word safety audit is in much of the aviation safety industry a word you don’t use lightly and is a word one compelled to speak in a whisper or raised upper lip. While I am being facetious, it's no secret that auditors are often seen as the people who are trying to “find out” what an organization is doing "wrong." An auditor walking around wielding an auditing checklist can be mildly disconcerting or downright nerve-wracking.

Because of this, it’s not uncommon for safety auditors to face passive resistance or reticence from employees who may be afraid of incriminating their organization or don't fully understand the basics of safety audits.

Moreover, the various traits auditors need to perform their job adequately are very diverse, and taken together are extremely uncommon:

  • Writing skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Objective
  • Work well with people
  • Good listeners
  • Good at prioritizing
  • Thorough

It’s a paradoxical mix of traits. Different auditors will obviously have some skills that they are better at. However, there are three traits I have found universally that good auditors have.

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1 - Seeks Out Evidence

Ground crew airport

This is a biggy. The more evidence an auditor has about an SMS – its documents, its personnel, its information flow – the better judgment he will be able to make about any piece and the overall health of the aviation SMS.

Seeking out evidence can be practiced with a couple of different methods:

  1. Auditors see the evidence with their own eyes
    • This means not they don’t simply “take someone’s word for it”. They physically check records and documentation. They observe the organization's physical environment.
  2. Auditors talk to various employees and management – not just the safety department
    • They get input from many different sources to piece together a well-informed, more objective opinion. It also gives them more opportunities to identify issues.
  3. Auditors double-check that reported safety issues are following the appropriate channel and are processed according to documented processes
    • Appropriate not only means the channels that the particular SMS has designed but that those channels are efficient. The most appropriate flow of safety information may not be incorporated into an organization's practice.

Moreover, successful auditors continue to pick up more useful methods for gathering the best, most comprehensive evidence.

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2 - Thinks Like an Engineer

Good engineers are, stereotypical, good with numbers and/or systems. Like them, good aviation safety auditors are able to do two paradoxical things very well:

  • Comprehend the overall structure of an organization
  • Comprehend the myriad pieces that make an organization what it is

You know how extensive audits can be - packed full of

  • details,
  • requirements,
  • statistics,
  • best practices.

The pitfall of any complex system is to get lost in the minutia, stuck on individual pieces, and lose focus of the whole.

We can describe good aviation SMS auditors as top-down thinkers. First, by understanding an organization's overall structure and then seeing how each part of the extensive audit form fits in with the overall structure’s effectiveness, much as mechanic things about an engine.

Having the ability to think both big and small allows auditors to correctly identify the deficiencies in an aviation SMS.

Our list of 40 aviation SMS leading indicators is completely free!

3 - Communicates Like a Public Speaker

Unlike engineers who aren’t exactly known for stellar communication skills, aviation safety auditors who perform their job well communicate their various diagnoses in three key ways:

  • So that others can easily understand
  • With sound rationale
  • And without judgment

It’s easy for the auditor to be the bad guy, and for an organization and its management to feel like the auditor is simply out to “get them” or “find fault”

That’s why sound communication is an extremely important part of an auditor’s job. He/she not only needs to be fair with audit but must also appear reasonable as well.

Good communication skills help establish the auditor as a helper rather than someone simply looking for mistakes.

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Final Thought

Good aviation SMS auditors are adept at making an organization feel “helped” rather than “criticized.” Demeanor – or trying to come off a certain way – plays a very little role in an auditor's success at achieving “helper” status.

I consider a fourth, somewhat informal trait that all good auditors have is that they walk into audits with a "helper" mindset - that is, they work from a position of supporting improvement rather than simply assessing how compliant an organization is.

Are you ready for your next safety audit?

Do you have auditing tools? Do you need an efficient process to audit vendors and internal processes?

Do you need a process to manage findings and track corrective and preventive actions?

Do you need a Web-based auditing system? Here is a low-cost affordable auditing system.

Aviation Audit Management Solution

Also, here are several useful safety audit checklists.

Download Safety Audit Checklists

Last updated October 2023.

Topics: 3-Safety Assurance

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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