When it comes to making the case for safety, are you asking the right questions?

How do you, as a rotorcraft professional, define safety, in the simplest terms possible? Better yet, how would you describe a safety management system (or SMS) to your key decision makers?

Many leaders at companies in the vertical flight industry simply haven’t been shown the value of investing in safety resources or implementing an SMS. Fewer still are up for a lengthy chat about it.

But most of you get this stuff. You continue to find new and creative ways to justify investments in safety resources to people who in many cases don’t fully appreciate the importance of an SMS unless it’s directly linked to a contract requirement, insurance coverage, or—worse—a tragedy.

So how do we simplify the case for safety in a way that will resonate with decision makers?

If you find yourself in this situation without a successful safety “sales strategy,” consider your responses to the following three key questions. You might find them helpful when making your case for safety.

  1. What keeps you up at night? More specifically, what issues, hazards, or behaviors that, if left unchecked, would increase the likelihood of a bad outcome, incident, or accident in your operation?
  2. What are you doing about it? Perhaps this is the first time you or your company leaders have looked at it this way, focusing on specific issues, hazards, or behaviors that have you concerned. In that case, take a moment to consider what you should be doing to ensure that those nightmares don’t become a reality.

OK, great! If you’ve come up with some concrete, practical responses to the first two questions, you’re now tracking your most worrisome hazards and have documented a few ideas about how to address them. Chances are you were already taking some steps to mitigate the risks related to those hazards, but maybe not everyone in your organization has gotten the memo. Easy fix. Just tell them, or remind them, about the steps; then, make it official and update your policies, procedures, and training program accordingly.

This brings us to our third and final question, one that’s often overlooked.

  1. How do you know whether your plan is working?

We must ensure that what we’re doing to address known hazards is working. We also need to be open-minded in our approach to discovering unknown hazards.

One sure way to let our employees, coworkers, and customers know that their safety is paramount is to request their honest feedback. Ask them, through candid conversations, surveys, or third-party assessments, whether they feel safe on the job. Provide them with a secure way to report events or concerns without fear of reprisal. Once we open these doors, we’ll soon have much of the information we need to determine whether we’re on track toward implementing and maintaining an effective SMS.

But where do you go from there?

It’s up to you. You and your coworkers are your organization’s most precious assets. You deserve to operate in an environment where the hazards you face are understood and the residual risks are well known and mitigated to the lowest acceptable level.

I challenge each of you to keep asking tough questions, professionally and diplomatically, to ensure that you and your organization continue to operate at the highest standards of safety.

To learn more about HAI’s new SMS program for operator members, with access to essential safety-event reporting software tools and much more, visit our HAI SMS Program page.

Author

  • After an aviation career in the US Army and Coast Guard, Chris Hill oversaw aviation safety management systems throughout the USCG as aviation safety manager. He holds an ATP rating and has logged more than 5,000 flight hours, primarily in military and commercial helicopters. Chris joined HAI in 2018 as director of safety.

Chris Hill

Chris Hill

After an aviation career in the US Army and Coast Guard, Chris Hill oversaw aviation safety management systems throughout the USCG as aviation safety manager. He holds an ATP rating and has logged more than 5,000 flight hours, primarily in military and commercial helicopters. Chris joined HAI in 2018 as director of safety.

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