Safety Culture: Development and Strategy

The need for continuous improvement to maintain the high level of safety in a rapidly expanding and changing aviation system demands that all participants in the system challenge the processes, the culture and themselves, to identify weaknesses and to seek corrective solutions. [1]

Developing An Organizational Safety Culture

In validating a survey to assess safety culture within the commercial aviation industry, von Thaden et al, (2003) identified five global components in the development of a safety culture in an organization: [2]

  • Organizational Commitment to safety refers to the extent to which upper-level management identifies safety as a core value or guiding principles of the organization.
  • Management Involvement refers to the extent to which both upper- and middle-level managers get personally involved in critical safety activities within the organization
  • Employee Empowerment refers to an individual’s perceptions or attitudes as a result of a delegation of authority or responsibility by upperlevel management. An empowered attitude can lead to increased motivation to “make a difference,” to go beyond the call of duty for organizational safety and take responsibility for ensuring safe operations. Within the context of safety culture, this means that employees have a substantial voice in safety decisions, have the leverage to initiate and achieve safety improvements, hold themselves and others accountable for their actions, and take pride in the safety record of their organization.(Geller, 1994). [3]
  • Reward Systems - A fair evaluation and Reward System is needed to promote safe behavior and discourage or correct unsafe behavior. One of the key components of an organization’s safety culture is the manner in which both behaviors are evaluated and the consistency in which rewards or penalties are assigned according to evaluations (Reason, 1990).^^[4]^
  • Reporting Systems - An effective and systematic Reporting System is the keystone to identifying the weakness and vulnerability of safety management before an accident occurs. The willingness and ability of an organization to proactively learn and adapt its operations based on incidents and near misses before an accident occurs is critical to improving safety (Eiff, 1999) [5]

Safety Strategy

Developing the following safety strategy requires an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the system. The accident record serves as a prime indicator, but the industry must also rely on information derived from as many additional sources as possible. For example, the willingness to apply effective safety standards can serve as measure of the safety culture of the industry. Information from regulators and service providers can also provide valuable data.


Organizational safety culture means that everyone from the chief executive through the entire company is committed to continuous safety improvement, always watching for potential hazards and associated risks, and then developing and implementing appropriate and effective mitigation to either eliminate the hazards or reduce risks to an acceptable level.

Codes of Practice

The industry must continually learn from itself with innovative new safety and security programmes and makes them available to others. A Safety Management System (SMS) provides a mechanism for organization to continuously improve safety.

(Image embedded from NASA on 27 Sep 2009)

Regulatory Framework

Differences in rules and procedures between States around the world represent inherent safety deficiencies. There is need for harmonized rules, based on realistic and effective international standards.

Adherence to Industry Standards

Industry codes of practice in aviation standards are developed and maintained by industry governing bodies. However, it is incumbent
on operators to apply them and continually test their effectiveness. Safety standards will not achieve their objective if organizations do not implement and apply them conscientiously.

Safety Equipment and Technology

Rapid advances over the past couple of decades in aviation electronics have provided aviation with extraordinary safety enhancements. Continued development of systems such as Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning Systems and Airborne Collision Avoidance Systems are improving safety even further.

(Image embedded from Fed on 27 Sep 2009)

Data Collection and Analysis

A system of metrics for safety in business aviation provides the critical information needed by the industry to influence positive change. However, more is required to ensure universal international acceptance and development of risk indicators.

Air Navigation and Airport Services

Aviation safety is strongly influenced by the quality of the air navigation and airport infrastructure and services. Although these services are generally provided by government or private bodies, the aviation industry must be prepared to assist in the development and monitoring of good standards and the identification of deficiencies.

Support Services

Aviation is highly reliant on specialized support services provided for training, flight planning and operational management. The quality and ready availability of these services have a direct influence on the level of safety in the industry.

(Image embedded from LHConsulting] on 27 Sep 2009)
1. Business Aviation Safety Strategy Retrieved on 18 Sep 2009 from International Business Aviation Council
2. Safety Culture In A Regional Airline Retrieved on 18 Sep 2009 from UIUC
3. Geller, E.S. (1994). Ten principles for achieving a total safety culture. Professional Safety, 39(9), 18-24.
4. Reason, J. (1990). Human error. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
5. Eiff, G. (1999). Organizational safety culture. Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Aviation Psychology (pp. 1-14). Columbus, OH:Department of Aviation.

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