Safety Culture: Measurement

To understand conditions that yield errors, it is necessary to evolve beyond the limited scope of tracing the erroneous actions of individuals. For every observed error in a system, countless undetected hazards or failures lie in wait to breach the system’s defenses. Thus research has focused on reducing the adverse effects of error on the outcome of a system breach by producing meticulously developed tools, technologies, procedures, and redundancies to provide buffers in a system to incorporate error tolerance.

As aviation organizations move toward the regulation of Safety Management System, the need to develop a measure upon which to judge critical movement and changes in the organization’s culture of safety is timely and relevant. Using a consistent framework to measure safety culture allows for comparisons across aviation organizations for industry benchmarking as a whole.[1]

Safety Culture Indicators

According to Professor James Reason, the following indicators of an organization's safety culture are the hallmarks of an effective safety system: [2]

  • People feel encouraged to voice safety concerns and to report events resulting from human error without fear of retribution.
  • When such concerns are reported they are analysed and appropriate action is taken.
  • People are encouraged to develop and apply their own skills and knowledge to enhance organizational safety.
  • There is never the complacent view that the safety system has achieved its goals and needs no further modification.
  • Staff are regularly updated by management on safety issues.
  • Management acknowledges all safety concerns and suggestions, and safety reports are fed back to staff so that everyone learns the lessons.
  • Management practices what it preaches regarding safety, including the allocation of sufficient resources and the prioritization of safety ahead of cost.
  • Management gives timely, relevant and clear feedback on decisions, even if the decision is to do nothing.
  • If no action is contemplated, that decision is explained.

Consequently creating a positive safety culture is recognized by Human Factors psychologists as an essential aspect of effective safety management in any workplace. Safety culture is determined by the values and priorities placed on all aspects of safety by everyone at every level of an organization, and how managers, supervisors and the workforce behave on a day-to-day basis.

(Image embedded from GC on 16 Sep 2009)

Measuring Tools

Safety Culture Indicator Scale Measurement System

Safety Culture Indicator Scale Measurement System (SCISMS) is an integrated method of organizational self-assessment instrument designed to aid operators in measuring indicators of their organization’s safety culture, targeting areas that work particularly well and areas in need of improvement.

It is a comprehensive safety culture survey using a 7-point Likert-type response scale to indicate respondent agreement or disagreement for each item and provides space at the end of each section for respondents to write comments. This allows for both a quantitative measure of the organization’s safety culture, and qualitative evidence to understand the specific areas that work well or need improvement. The quantitative portion of the survey gives information to gauge the extent of the organization’s commitment to safety culture and allows for statistical measures of concepts that heretofore have been speculative.

The flight and maintenance operations versions of the SCISMS have been tested and validated over a series of organizations. SCISMS has proven itself a useful diagnostic tool built to illustrate industry practice through its use as a longitudinal benchmarking tool, and it also serves to individually identify and analyze specific strengths and areas in need of improvement in an aviation organization, providing useful information to airline management seeking to improve safety culture. [3]

(Image embedded from GC on 26 Sep 2009)

Safety Health of Maintenance Engineering

Safety Health of Aviation Maintenance Engineering (SHoMe) is a tool develop by Health and Safety Engineering Consultants (HSEC) for the UK CAA Safety Regulation Group to identify indicators of 'safety health' within the aircraft maintenance industry and to enable these key safety indicators to be measured. The aim was to apply the tool both before the introduction of human factors and safety management initiatives, and also afterwards, to measure whether there had been any improvements in safety health.

The methodology involves the identification and measurement of appropriate indicators of "safety health", in particular the effectiveness of human factors and other safety programmes and the development of questionnaires and analysis methods for measuring these key safety indicators in a consistent manner against which results from further applications of the tool can be compared. This was piloted at two organizations, and adapted as a result of feedback. It was then applied at four further companies considered to be fairly representative of UK maintenance organizations. [4]

(Image embedded from SCSI on 06 Oct 2009)
1. von Thaden, T.L., Gibbons, A.M. Safety Culture Indicator Scale Measurement System (SCISMS) Retrieved on 27 Sep 2009 from UIUC
2. Reason, J (2001) In search of resilience Flight Safety Australia. Retrieved on 16 Sep 2009 from CASA
3. Technical Report HFD-08-03/FAA-08-2 - Retrieved on 06 Oct 2009

Want to know more?

Safety Culture Indicator Scale Measurement System
More information on measuring organization safety culture.
Safety Health of Aviation Maintenance Engineering
This document provides more information on measuring the safety health of a maintenance organization.
CAP 712 Safety Management Systems for Commercial Air Transport Operations
An overview of comprehensive corporate approach to safety.
Safety Culture Document
More information regarding safety culture.

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