Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Safety Card

The Safety Card is played when data does not support an opinion of a decision maker or when safety is not comprehended. The Safety Card is when safety becomes the driving force of operations without considering Residual Risk, which is the remaining risk level that exists after all selected risk control techniques have been implemented or without considering the Substitute Risk, which is the safety risk level that exists of new hazards identified by the introduction of a risk control. The Safety Card is played when safety is not defined, measured or when operational pressure is applied from a third party or social media.

The Safety Card is effective when applied to one event only.
After major aircraft accidents, there is a public outcry, and rightfully so, for airlines to improve safety.  The aviation authorities are scrambling to make new rules to protect the flying public and everyone is alleging that flying is safer than driving a vehicle. Ever since the first flight new rules and regulations have been put in place to improve safety and make flying the utopia of safe travel. But it’s not certain that more regulations make flying safer.

A quote from Transport Canada:
"Traditionally, in rail and in other safety-critical industries, safety had been pursued through compliance with prescriptive rules and regulations. In the 1990s, however, advancements in safety research demonstrated that organizations could be compliant with prescriptive regulations, yet still be unsafe. More specifically, compliance did not necessarily mean effectively managing risks."
Leonardo da Vinci was a pioneer in aviation and 400 years ahead of his time. Below are two of his quotes: “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”, and “Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.

When combining these quotes, they become a description of aviation safety and the Safety Management System as we know it. Regulatory compliance is not safety risk assessments and it takes intelligence to assess risks, manage, lead and continuous improve aviation safety. Regulatory compliance is to rely on memory, while intelligence to lead with operational safety processes and the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations. When applying memory to SMS the task of memorizing regulations does not challenge operations or assessing risks, while applying intelligence, or human factors, operations are challenged and safety risk levels are assigned.

Customer Satisfaction is loyalty, safety and accountability to the flying public
SMS is data collection and to learn and understand what story the data is telling. Aviation safety is to apply data collected, which is the product of elements with a purpose to generate information, acquire knowledge and develop comprehension for training, competencies and communication within a Safety Promotion System. The public opinion of aviation safety is based on emotions of the outcome of the flight and not on input processes. This is how it must be addressed by the public, who should not have to analyze any data to raise their voice and opinion of safety when flying. An airline only has one option when it comes to manage safety in flying, which is to view their operations from the point of view of a passenger and the public opinion. An effective SMS is where the safety policy and primary objective is to provide a high-quality level of customer service and apply this as a tool for excellence in level of safety. It is impossible to provide a high-quality level of customer service without excellence in operations of a safety management system.

When applying this concept of a customer satisfaction based approach to safety there could be a conflict between the quality-level accepted by a customer and operational control. Opinions based demands from third-parties, customers, social media or an aviation authority could develop unintended hazards and affect safety decisions. Several years ago, and long before SMS became regulated, or accepted as a value-added level of safety in aviation, an operator developed a customer satisfaction based safety management system. The concept of this system was to measure the level of safety from the point of view of customer satisfaction and apply data-based decision tools to operational control. This system functioned for several years until it was decided to apply safety as the primary driving force into operations. While customer satisfaction could be measured, analysed and defined, the concept of safety could not easily be defined or comprehended. The Safety Card was applied equally to all aspects of operations without defining safety critical areas to measure. This opinion based decision to change a word from “customer” to “safety” caused a drift in operational control and drift of processes effectiveness. Introducing the word “safety” to operations does not improve safety unless decisions are based on factual data.