Aviation safety culture is a set of beliefs, values and rules — either formal or unspoken — about aviation safety that all people in an organization share. It effectively reflects a company’s true commitment — from its leadership to its workforce — to safety in daily operations and determines how safety is prioritized in practice. It encompasses the following elements: safety management, employees’ responsibilities, the relationship between management and employees and the structure of the safety management system — or SMS.
It’s essential to understand that safety culture in aviation industry applications is the responsibility of everybody in an organization, from the worker on the floor to the CEO in the board room. It’s something that needs to be continuously enforced to ensure that staff members consistently adhere to safety guidelines. In addition, organizations need to regularly review their safety policies to confirm that they’re keeping pace with new technologies and developments in the field.
The Importance of Fostering a Safety Culture
The importance of safety in aviation cannot be understated. When the lives of hundreds of passengers and people on the ground depend on the safe operation of an airplane, there’s simply no room for error. The same is true when it comes to the safety of the technicians, cleaners and other personnel who maintain and repair planes. By fostering a culture that prioritizes safety, you can prevent people from cutting corners and making decisions that could lead to unnecessary risk.
The answer to the question, “What is safety culture?” isn’t about identifying one person who’s responsible for an enterprise-wide system. Instead, it’s about realizing that any form of culture is a shared set of beliefs among a particular group of people. And since all workplaces have a shared set of beliefs regarding how work is conducted, it’s well worth the effort to make a conscious decision to nurture a culture of safety.
How Do You Measure Safety Culture?
Compared to measuring the performance of an aircraft’s engine, gaining a firm grasp on a shared set of beliefs within an organization is a far more abstract exercise. Nevertheless, a great way to measure the effectiveness of any safety culture is by conducting a survey.
It’s helpful to have a safety director — sometimes referred to as a safety manager — spearheading a company’s safety efforts. Additionally, getting honest perspectives from every level of an enterprise is a proven method of measuring the overall buy-in employees have for a safety culture. Of course, for any survey to be effective, there are some key points to consider.
First, to encourage meaningful responses from all workers, the survey should be anonymous and purposely designed not to favor any one group within the organization. Second, the results of the survey should be kept confidential for the organization’s use. Third, once collected and reviewed, the results should be used to help address any shortcomings the organization has with its safety culture.
What Does Safety Culture Measurement Cost?
The largest cost associated with measuring any company’s safety culture is the loss in productivity due to the time employees spend either filling out a survey or attending some form of training. Naturally, these costs are well worth it when you consider the many business benefits related to a workplace that reduces its overall rate of occupational hazards and accidents.
In short, when aviation safety culture is an open dialogue that members of an organization always feel free to contribute to and take a certain ownership of, the entire company benefits. Success in this instance means avoiding complacency and instead viewing a healthy work environment as an ongoing endeavor.
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