Safety Managers can sort through legalities by remembering what safety is and what safety is not. Safety is about prevention, human factors, reporting and investigating, fixing the problem, communicating and looking forward.
Safety is not about criminal law, civil law, administrative law or regulatory law; it is not about public administration or zoning around airports. It is not about public relations, disaster preparedness and actually, much to the surprise of many, it is not about accident investigation.
All of these subject areas may involve commercial aviation and we have to be about the business of managing all of these areas, but they are not safety management.
Safety management is now going through the SMS phase and that is mostly good. But there is a mystic which may confuse some, turn off others or gray the black and white lines of aviation safety.
Safety must foremost be prevention, prevention of hazards from becoming mishaps. Strong leadership in safety is needed to make prevention happen; it does not come naturally to us humans to prevent mishaps, we tend to trip and skin our knees, we do not always seem ready to prevent the trip and fall. But prevention is cheaper. Straightening a rug by a door is cheaper that sending a guest to the hospital with a trip caused broken bone.
Safety is really all about human factors or what we really know as human error. There is no mishap on record that did not hold human error to account. So prevention really does seem to be a human error issue, what can we do as flight crew to improve our human performance. Training comes to mind, procedures and checklists as part of that.
Safety is all about the reporter finding a hazard and yelling out loud, “Hey, here is a problem everyone!” Those of us gifted to see thing may see more, but everyone sees something. Encourage reporting.
Fixing the problem is critical, don’t just report the hazard. There is no one other than the safety manager who is more in charge at this point; this is your time to shine. Do the work corporately or by your own imagination- but get the work done to find the solution and pronto. Remember that the flight on which the hazard was found will be repeated in an hour, a day or a week. No time for waiting for “the system to work.” The system didn’t work and now is the time to step in and take action, work with others to take action, manage others who are taking action or foster the action takers to hurry up.
Communicating is how safety works. Remember that you both speak for the pilots and to the pilots. They speak to you. Keep those channels open and flowing. Do whatever is needed in your organizations culture to encourage communications. Remember also that Tweets, emails, Facebook, IM’s and every new electronic media is whats happening now.
Lastly, safety is all about looking forward to mishap free operations. Consider everything you do as influencing a safer tomorrow. You will be one of the few who do.
Remember, do not get involved, sidetracked or distracted by what safety is not. As the safety manager, you are the only one doing those six safety goals leading you to the now SMS.