Aviation Safety culture report, pilot fatigue and feedback are key issues.

The culture of an organisation can be defined as ‘the way we do things here‘. There is a need to have common objectives which meet both individual and corporate goals. The unison in the effort to achieve the common objectives leads to establishing a generative safety culture.
Accident causation models:
Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 11.22.59 AM
Heinrich’s domino model of accident causation.
The domino theory asserts that accidents were caused by a sequence of events that had five clear stages. This began with the person’s hereditary and environment which predisposed the person to behave in a certain way and led to an accident or injury. As per a study in the 1980’s , approximately 80% of accidents were triggered by unsafe acts , while remaining 20% being caused by unsafe conditions, known as the 80:20 rule.
There have been further modifications to the domino model by Weaver, Adam and Bird. Organisation’s role in accident causation has been analyzed and emphasis has been laid on  training and human behaviour.

Alongside the development of the accident causation model was the attempt by researchers to identify the good characteristics of low accident companies as compared with high accident companies.
The following points came up:
  1. Strong senior management commitment , leadership and involvement in safety,
  2. Closer contact and better communication,
  3. Greater hazard control,
  4. Mature and stable workforce,
  5. Good personnel selection job placement and promotion,
  6. Good induction and followup safety training,
  7. Ongoing safety schemes reinforcing the importance of safety including near miss reporting.
Each accident causation model recognizes the presence of an interactive relationship between psychological, situational, and behavioral factors.  Safety culture is the relationship between the perceptions and attitudes towards the organisation’s goals and the presence of organizations safety systems to support goal directed behavior.

Safety management system has been mandated by the ICAO with the introduction of Annex 19. With SMS relatively new to aviation as compared to other high risk industries, one would assume that the experience of other industries would be taken into account when rolling out SMS. There is a general reluctance to implement safety systems and processes in the true spirit. Even though, the airlines have checked all boxes as far as  compliance is concerned, yet we witness years of sporadic jump in the accident rates. This points to the fact that the safety culture maturity is at a maximum calculative stage. This is supported by Prof. Patrick Hudson’s comments on a previous blog.

Prof. Patrick Hudson is one of the world’s leading authorities on the human factor in the management of safety. He has commented on the blog post, which was published earlier in Linkedin.

There have been two significant studies carried out.

  1. ACI Asia-Pacific conducted a pilot survey
  2. Future Sky Safety is a Joint Research Program on Safety, initiated by EREA, the association of European Research Establishments in Aeronautics.

Overall result of the Safety Culture Survey suggests that respondents in general have more confidence than concern in the safety culture of the organization they belong to.

Primary concerns The primary concerns that require particular attention are the safety aspects which have larger influence on overall safety culture assessment but received lower evaluation.  Is safety risk list kept up-to-date ? Does everyone have a chance to receive feedbacks on safety report ? These are the factors that are more likely to be linked with safety culture, but respondents have less confidence with them.

Read the ACI survey report Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 2.28.58 PM

Flight crews gave lower evaluation on many aspects of safety culture in contrast to those in management positions. The contrast is the most obvious in the area of G. Working Environment lack of resources is more strongly experienced by flight crews. There are other areas where the contrast is apparent; for example, there is a clear gap between management and flight crews on how they perceive the company’s safety commitment ; flight crews agree much less with the statement that company’s commitment is accurately reflected in safety policy, goals, and operations. This implies that the management might need to communicate more closely with the staffs in the frontline to accurately grasp which safety aspects require particular attention. Flight crews also feel that the support given to develop skills and knowledge is less satisfactory.

Read the Future Sky Study by LSE Among the key findings of the work, 51 per cent of pilots surveyed reported that fatigue was not taken seriously by their airline, and 28 per cent of pilots felt that they had insufficient numbers of staff to carry out their work safely. In a further notable finding, less than 20 per cent of the pilots surveyed felt that their airline company cares about their well-being. A total of 7,239 pilots from across European nations participated in the European pilots’ perceptions of safety culture in European Aviation survey, approximately 14 per cent of Europe’s total commercial pilot population, in the largest ever survey of commercial pilots on safety culture.

In terms of safety culture dimensions, the future sky safety survey reports that, pilots tended to have concerns over the issues of fatigue and fatigue management, management commitment to safety, staff and equipment, and perceived organizational support. At an individual survey item level, concerns focussed on trust in management with regard to safety, receiving feedback on safety issues, training, national aviation authorities, and pilots being tired at work. More positively, the vast majority of pilots felt their colleagues were committed to safety, that voicing concerns on safety was encouraged, and that they do not need to take risks that make them feel uncomfortable about safety.

Conclusion: The essence of a safety culture is the relationship between the organisation represented by the management and the workers, represented by the pilots. There is a mistrust and lack of commitment towards the safety objectives. Therefore the safety culture cannot progress beyond the calculative stage till the generative stage. Management needs to understand and the pilots need to develop a relationship which fosters trust. A generative safety culture is the aim to achieve.

Canada has issued new regulations governing pilot rest and duty time to counter the effect of fatigue and the risk associated with it.

 Australia has been proactive in reaching out to the public for consulting them before finalizing the set of rules. A collaborative decision making effort is always fruitful since all concerned stakeholders feel responsible in ensuring the success of the project.

Recent changes and upcoming rules on pilot fatigue are available in the links below.


Consultation for modernising Australia’s fatigue rules

Canada: Overview of the new regulations on flight crew fatigue management

About Capt. Amit Singh

I think therefore I am https://www.linkedin.com/in/traintofly/ Airlines Operations and Safety balance expert. A former head of operations/training and safety of successful LCC's in India. An experienced member of the startup teams of these airlines has hands-on experience in establishing airlines systems and processes.

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