Saturday, February 11, 2017

Safety Burnout


About 4 years ago, the first blog in this post was written and published. Since then safety never got bored, or bunt-out, but became more exiting to work with as time went on. The first story was about the Safety Management System and how aviation has evolved from the “trial and error” method to proactive and no longer accepting that accidents happens. There was never an acceptance of accidents, but the aviation industry did not make necessary changes until it was too late and a catastrophic event had happened. Over the last decade or so, SMS in aviation has been accepted as the New Generation of Aviation Safety. It is widely accepted that there is no profit in operating without documentation of established safety processes.

Safety has become a task to check the job completed box.
There is still an ongoing debate of what SMS actually is with multiple and inconsistent answers given. SMS is simple in concept, but often buried in bureaucratic paperwork and presented to the aviation industry as a system that nobody can understand, except to be able to fill in the check-boxes and comply with opinions.

SMS is about job-performance and a confidence level of how safe the outcomes are of tasks completed. Some believe that it is possible to have a process for everything within an SMS system and a 100% confidence level that they are operating safe, but it isn’t. An organization without an SMS implemented my live by this myth since it is their justification based on opinion and not data.

SMS is a businesslike approach to safety and an additional layer of safety of what the aviation industry already had in place. An effective SMS system parallels the operations. In the pre-SMS days, an operator would call up a friend and ask how they would do certain things and how it works. For other issues, they would call up other friends and get information of the best and safest way to operate. This was not a businesslike approach, but a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach. Corrective actions were not initiated until the airplane took an unexpected turn.

The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants system, which is a follow-me-system, and a Safety Management System which is leadership system are two different system approaches and incompatible systems. However, there are some who insists that these two systems are merged by applying follow-me opinions as requirements and demanding compliance with the leadership and accountability system. With this attempt to merge two incompatible systems, applying failures to each opinion that are not met and continuing to make attempts to merge after the first one failed leads to safety burnout. There are two indicators of safety burnout, or being on a slippery-slope to safety burnout, which are the “check-box” syndrome and the “opinion-syndrome”.

Expectations and process on collision course.
As a businesslike approach to safety SMS becomes simple and enjoyable as safety goals are reached and continuous safety improvements achieved. Without allowing for an SMS to function the task to manage safety is to look backwards and dwell on failures when at the same time attempting to move forward with corrections. It is more convenient for regulators to see SMS in a backwards view, rather than allowing time for SMS to move forward. Without the business knowledge of applying a business-like approach to safety, but demanding immediate return on investment, SMS is viewed as to be in non-compliance. When an SMS is found in an opinion-non-compliance the most convenient process to change is to change the process for compliance with opinions. The regulators are admitting this themselves by referencing to SMS expectations for non-compliance findings, since expectations are nothing else but opinions.  

When these two opposing forces of a follow-me system and leadership system are colliding, it is creating a dysfunctional operating environment identified by SMS. As often, the messenger is being blamed and findings are given to the SMS system, when it should be given to the opinion that changed the performance of operations. When an SMS functions as it was indented, there will never be burn-outs, since there will always be another and new safety challenge to take on and move forward with excitement. Safety burnout is the result of check-box and opinion-based SMS compliance.


CatalinaNJB