Safety Watch: A Good Safety Program’s Key

By Keith M. Cianfrani | February 1, 2008
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Risk management and accident prevention are buzz words familiar to most pilots and safety managers. But what do they really mean and how do we ensure we adhere to the practices and policies that assist us in reducing accidents and injuries?

At least one aviation accident occurs every day somewhere in the United States. Not all are fatal, but many are. Are the pilots and operators involved practicing good safety and risk management or do they just hope nothing will ever happen to them?

A good safety program has many aspects and must be practiced to be effective. At its root is risk management. It should be practiced at all levels, from top down to bottom up.


Good risk management involves identifying hazards and problems, assessing their severity, developing countermeasures (or solutions), implementing those, and supervising this process.

The factors affecting a safety programs are leadership, discipline, training and standards.

The first step is a good command climate. An organization’s leaders must recognize the need for a good safety program and answer the following questions: We have not had an accident in many years, so why do we need a safety program? Can we afford a safety program? What will be the benefits of investing in one?

The chief executive is ultimately responsible for the safety program within his company. He or she sets the tone within the company for how serious all personnel will be in achieving the company mission as safely as possible. The chief executive must communicate the philosophy on safety to the personnel in the company and be consistent in following and exhibiting that philosophy.

Supervisors must participate, too. They must be responsible for ensuring activities in their area are conducted in a safe manner.

Pilots and other employees are also responsible for the safety program. Executives and supervisors cannot control all activities all the time. Pilots must take the personal responsibility to work and train in a safe manner. That includes taking responsibility for reporting unsafe conditions and actions so an accident will not occur. Each member of the company can and should influence other employees to be professional and work by the book.

A good safety program does not mean that there will never be an accident. Some operators may have the best safety program and still have a mishap because of the law of probabilities, but they work continually at reducing the risk associated with their operation.

The second step in starting or reviewing a safety program begins with assigning a pilot as a safety manager. This should be his primary duty, with pilot duties receiving a lower priority. The safety manager should work directly for the head of the company. We then must train this person and give him authority to make decisions and manage the safety program.

Inspections are very important and should be performed on a regular basis (at least every six months). They are used to examine specific areas, note hazards and discrepancies from procedures, and generate a report to the leadership level that required the inspections.

Surveys are similar to inspections in that they examine specific areas for problems, hazards, and improper procedures. However, a survey has more of a helpful attitude. If a problem is found, steps are taken to resolve it or show how the problem can be fixed.

Some of the areas that are of importance are maintenance (which should be done by the book), record-keeping and trend-spotting, and identification of hazardous situations, defects, improper procedures, errors in manuals, etc.

One of the most important aspects of an effective safety program is a hazard-inventory log. We want to log the hazards identified by surveys, inspections, and personnel hazard reports. These hazards must be tracked until they are corrected.

Investing time and resources in a safety program will reap the benefits of increased employee morale, fewer accidents (and, hence, lower costs), and reduced liability and legal actions. Employers have the responsibility to keep their employees safe. Show your employees you care.

In conclusion, the company safety program is your program. The success of the program requires every member to think safety all the time. A good safety program is your responsibility as well as your employees. Integrate safety into all aspect of your everyday mission. Make it routine. Safety and risk management must be practiced at all levels. A proactive approach to safety ensures the effectiveness of the company. Efficient customer service will long go away after a severe mishap occurs.

The key to any good safety program is risk management.

Risk Management Guidelines

The safety manager should look at establishing a safety program using the following guidelines:

  • Review your current initiatives. Visit all sites of the operation and conduct safety assessments or inspections in all areas.

  • Review mishap statistics for the last five years, looking for trends.

  • Establish a hazard log for each area and track hazards.

  • Establish a safety education program.

  • Conduct monthly site meetings.

  • Conduct quarterly company safety meetings.

  • Establish a safety council to include the president and key management personnel.

  • Review the accident causation model.

  • Identify system inadequacies (human, material or environmental).

  • Establish an awards program.

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