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Ep.8 – We all want to be safe, but how do we do that?

Podcast | June 6, 2019

Author: Brent Fishlock


Safety Promotion as a part of SMS has two parts: training and communication. Safety promotion is key to ensuring that an operator’s SMS is effective. By promoting safety through training and communication, organizations encourage and maintain positive engagement. But it’s not just a “set-up and it’ll run by itself” scenario. Safety must be continually promoted to be effective, and management must lead by example.

Training topics may include incident and accident reporting procedures. The report itself must have as much information as possible, especially if the report is anonymous, since the investigator cannot ask questions of the reporter. Other training topics could include unique operational hazards and their risk controls, who is responsible for what in the safety system, SMS theory, and more.

The employee must feel confident in their SMS and must feel like a part of the safety system.

Safety can also be promoted by establishing communication channels through which lessons can be learned from occurrence investigations and other safety-related activities. “Lessons learned” is an SMS catchphrase, but it only works if lessons are in fact learned. Newsletters and a safety board are common communication tools but fostering as much reporting as possible is critical in the business aviation environment. Most operators do not have a Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) program, which is also known as Flight Data Monitoring or FDM. Therefore, pilots must report what happens in the cockpit, and maintainers must report what happens on the hangar floor. If the approach is unstable and a landing is made anyway—it must be reported. If a maintainer neglects a step in the maintenance process—it must be reported. The communication comes full circle when the person who made the report is notified of what the company has done as a result. Without this closed loop of communication, team members will not feel like they make a difference and may not report the next time. Team members must be applauded for reporting.

So, training and communication are the two key areas of safety promotion.


The employer must provide the right tools. The FAA states that there are two characteristics of organizations that consistently achieve safe results: open reporting and just culture.

  • An operation must have Open Reporting Policies and processes that foster open reporting. The organization should encourage disclosure of error without fear of reprisal, yet it should also demand accountability on the part of employees and management alike. If the reporting software is difficult to use, then it probably won’t be used as much as it could. If there is a hint that anonymous reports are not totally anonymous, then team members may not report anonymously or perhaps not at all.
  • An organization with a just culture should engage in the identification of systemic errors, implement preventative corrective action, and exhibit intolerance of undesirable behaviors such as recklessness or willful disregard for established procedures. However, how will the company know if procedures are not being followed unless team members report hazards or willful noncompliance?

Developing a just culture is not easy and is not only the Safety Manager’s job. The FAA says of Safety Culture: “As with the development of any skill, it takes time, practice and repetition, the appropriate attitude, a cohesive approach, and constant coaching from involved mentors. Management’s constant attention, commitment, and visible leadership are essential to guiding an organization toward a positive safety performance. “

Managers must make safety visual. Make safety front and centre.


  1. Management must lead by example – Team members see examples of senior management actions, decisions, and behaviours encouraging an open and fair culture.
  2. Management must report when required – Management must be trusted, and actions speak louder than words.
  3. Management must support and encourage hazard reporting – An open and fair culture is included and endorsed in key documentation and communication to staff.
  4. Management continues to monitor the organization’s ‘safety climate’ through surveys and audits. As a team member, you should participate in these surveys.

All staff are involved in establishing and maintaining the organization’s safety culture.

The most important safety promotion comes from management’s commitment to operate as they say they will and as per the manuals of the company. Management must lead by example.

Management is responsible for implementing, maintaining, and adhering to SMS processes in their area, and employees are responsible for identifying hazards and reporting them.


Be professional. Take all your training and apply it vigorously to your responsibilities as a member of a team. Follow your procedures, and not just when you are being evaluated. If you see something, say something. Be a mentor if you can and lead by example—if you are a manager, everyone is watching how you conduct yourself. It comes down to responsibility. Talking poorly about the SMS will disseminate to your team. If you think it doesn’t work, then help fix it. The Safety Manager cannot do it alone.

Reporting all hazards is critical to the success of the SMS. The team members on the front line of operations have the best knowledge of how the system is supposed to work and why sometimes it does not. Hazards must be reported so they can be mitigated to a safe level for everyone’s benefit.

Reporting is contingent upon management establishing trust with their employees, and trust that reporting is not punitive as stated in the Safety Policy.

Overall, it sounds pretty straightforward, but there are challenges to promoting safety everyday. I like the FAA’s analogy of promoting safety and safety culture as a developed skill that must be practised and repeated so it may become effective. The company has the ultimate responsibility for the SMS; however, the employee is expected to take their training and use it to the fullest.

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