When We Say Promote Safety, What Are We Actually Promoting
Safety promotion plays a crucial role in your aviation safety culture. So when we talk about promoting your SMS, we are really talking about how to build a safety culture in your organization.
By far, safety promotion is often the most neglected portion of SMS. One, promoting the safety program is difficult, and two, it is vastly underrepresented in most aviation compliance authorities’ requirements.
However, the good news is that when we say promote safety, we are actually talking about a small handful of specific things that you are trying to promote:
- Hazard reporting culture;
- Safety awareness and mindfulness;
- Safety communication and assertive feedback;
- Acceptance of changes to SMS; and
- Compliance with SMS policies, procedures, and other guidelines.
Understanding these points allows you to make a more targeted effort when brainstorming ways to promote safety in your organization. Managers who don’t understand that the above points are the target of safety promotion will feel lost and listless in promotional efforts.
Here are the best ways to promote safety in your organization.
Show Commitment to Have Employees Be Part of SMS
First and foremost, promoting your safety program is done through safety management’s actions. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. No amount of incentives, posters, and other efforts will ameliorate management which is uninterested in having employees involved in:
- The change management process;
- SMS decisions; and
- Feedback mechanisms.
The best SMS promotion tool is to demonstrate to employees that they work with the SMS to enact safety, rather than the SMS being something that happens to them. One great way to demonstrate this commitment is to:
- Employ safety surveys to get employee feedback;
- Make decisions and changes to the SMS based on feedback data; and
- communicate to employees these changes and, most importantly, why the changes were made.
It will show employees that they are a part of the SMS continuous improvement process.
Show Commitment to Non-Corporate Culture
Corporate culture destroys countless departments and organizations. It will destroy your safety program as well. As said in the previous section, the best way to promote your program is with actions rather than words.
You need to crack down on corporate culture within the SMS. Your organization may struggle with corporate culture, in which case you have an opportunity to set your program apart – employees will notice and will greatly appreciate you for it.
One way to demonstrate non-corporate culture is to remind employees over and over that the SMS rests on their shoulders in three important ways:
- They are the employees who enact the safety measures (policies, procedures, etc.) with behavior and actions;
- They are the people who will be identifying issues; and
- They are the people who will report issues.
Show management’s commitment to depending on front-line employees, and you will show employees that your SMS is not into corporate culture.
Related Articles on Aviation Safety Culture
- What Is Safety Culture in Your Aviation SMS?
- How to Tell Your Safety Culture Needs Help? - w/Aviation SMS Resources
- 5 Indicators of Reactive or Proactive Safety Culture in Your Aviation SMS
Post Relevant Signs/Posters
As simple as it may be, posting signs and posters regarding identifying and reporting issues can actually be a very effective way to promote your safety program.
I can’t take credit for this idea, as we were informed by one of our clients that they adopted this practice and saw immediate and positive effects. What they did was create a bunch of posters that said four simple pieces of information:
- If you SEE a hazard, issue, or concern
- It’s your responsibility to ACT…
- And SUBMIT with SMS Pro, by phone, or by email
- [phone number], [email]
The SEE, ACT, and SUBMIT words were capitalized, bolded, much larger font size, and a different color than the rest of the text. The contact info was the same font/size/color as the capitalized words.
If employees see these signs multiple times every day, they will most likely report more. In a way, it’s a positive form of conditioning.
Practice Emergency Drills
Emergency drills are drills that are used to test your emergency response plan. Emergency drills help promote safety in your SMS for a couple of good reasons:
- Inspire confidence in employee-ability to react to dangerous situations;
- Give employees a benchmark to reach for safety actions; and
- Subtly train employees how to act safely and in prescription with your guidelines.
Confident, motivated, and compliant employees tend to be very safe employees.
Release Consistent Newsletters
Newsletters are one of the best means for formally communicating safety information to your entire organization (or a large section of it). A newsletter is a document that is sent to communicate:
- Safety news;
- Safety activities; and/or
- Safety data and other information.
Why are newsletters considered “formal” modes of communication in comparison to things like safety meetings?
- Newsletters are a published document in your organization;
- Newsletters are generally sent out to the whole organization, or large sections of an organization (in larger companies);
- Newsletters feature safety “highlights” and general safety information (i.e., performance) within the given time period;
- More care for editing, design, and professionalism will be taken with newsletters than with other forms of communication; and
- Other forms of safety communication (meetings, emails, etc.) are generally not of the same quality, high-level information focus, and company-wide distribution as newsletters.
The best practices for creating newsletters are:
- Create a design template that can be reused every time (saves you time, sets expectations and familiarity);
- Create a consistent schedule so that people can receive them in an expected way, such as the end of every month, every quarter, etc., and
- Keep consistent formatting and type of information between different newsletters.
Related Aviation Safety Newsletter Articles
- Safety Chart: Stay on Top of Aviation Safety Promotion with SMS Newsletters
- Best Aviation Safety Newsletter Strategies for Aviation SMS
- What the SMS Human Factor Complacency Looks Like (with Free Newsletter Resource)
Daily Communication with Funny Anecdotes
On the opposite end of the spectrum from newsletters, a very informal tool for safety promotion could simply be communicating via email or morning meeting:
- A funny safety story that communicates a point;
- A funny safety image (The Far Side comic has many such aviation cartoons); or
- A funny joke that communicates a safety point.
The point here is that safety promotion and safety communication don’t have to be serious, dry, and (unfortunately) fairly boring strategies they often are. Inserting some humor into your promotion strategy is a great way to:
- Get employees’ attention; and
- Add something dynamic to the reputation of the safety program.
Aviation Safety Training
Last but not least, outside of demonstrating management’s commitment to the SMS, aviation safety training may be the best way to promote the safety program. Safety training naturally:
- Provides safety information;
- Cultivates safety awareness;
- Empowers employee reactive, mitigatory behavior; and
- Empowers employee-ability to identify hazards.
See these free resources that will help you promote your safety program, and know where to promote it.
Last updated September 2023.