Mario Pierobon concludes his three-part series on qualifications of Safety Managers within corporate flight departments, discussing how to achieve the desired improvements…
Previously, we highlighted how the duties of Safety Managers often are assigned to someone who already holds another position with the Flight Department, when best practices dictate that safety management is not an add-on, but a function requiring full commitment.
We asserted that many Safety Managers have the unrealized potential to make significant contributions to the aviation activities of his or her employer, and that such potential should be developed.
In this concluding article, we consider how to implement a program that ensures Safety Managers are proficient and effective, and that they achieve specific targets in their pursuit of aviation safety.
For the Safety Manager to develop and for the organization to learn from his/her expertise, the flight department must be supportive. Various stakeholders need to contribute to the Safety Management System (SMS). It is only with stakeholder input, processed by the Safety Manager, that safety knowledge can be produced to the benefit of the wider organization.
In corporate flight departments three main barriers can prevent implementation of effective safety management:
Safety Information Supply
Line employees must supply safety information (e.g. safety reports) to the Safety Manager for the purpose of identifying trends that might reveal safety issues.
Among the reasons flight department personnel may not supply this information in the first place is that they do not see a benefit from doing so. Perhaps the hazard reporting system is seen as unnecessary bureaucracy, or no response is perceived from management as reports are filed.
In order to avoid safety reporting becoming perfunctory and an unnecessary burden, the procedure for reporting should be as simple as possible and the reporting form should leave room for reporters to add their ideas in relation to the issues they perceive. It is important that contributors to safety reports understand that their perspective is valued by the organization.
Procedures should be put in place for acknowledging each safety report and communicating any corrective action taken as a consequence of each report.
Filtering of Safety Information
In organizations lacking a mature SMS it can be common practice for line employees to submit a safety report to their senior officer (flight operations manager or maintenance manager) before it reaches the Safety Manager. Significant opportunity for improvement in safety performance is thus lost.
Imagine if a safety event occurs because of factors related to the performance of management. If a safety report is filtered through the heads of functional areas, unfortunately it is commonplace that all the background information associated with organizational factors is lost in the analysis of the event.
Thus, safety reports should be submitted directly to the Safety Manager. As a relatively independent party, he or she is in a more suitable position to assess the event and its causal factors.
Commitment of Line-Managers
In small organizations there is a widespread belief that safety is the responsibility of the safety office only and that the commitment of the line managers to the department’s SMS is only reactive (e.g., inputs are provided only when requested by the Safety Manager).
Management should instead be proactive with regard to its contribution to the department’s SMS and should be asking the Safety Manager or the safety office to facilitate safety risk assessments of the operations they oversee. Emphasis must be on continuous improvement and professional excellence.
The qualification criteria for the Safety Manager, together with the development of an organizational structure that allows the Safety Manager to fully realize his/her expertise potential, can bring shape to a flight department’s SMS, thereby providing the opportunity for real learning and continuous improvement.