Some good ideas as to how to maintain CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!!

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

According to the SMS textbooks, Safety is a Matter of Constant Vigilance. Unfortunately, in the midst of demanding, phrenetic jobs, this essential principle can be tossed aside and moved to a lower priority. The term “constant vigilance”[1] is defined in psychiatry as:

Constant vigilance or hypervigilance is a term used in psychiatry or psychology. If one suffered some form of trauma in the past, then you tend to see danger in neutral situations. The trauma makes someone hypervigilant in situations where a person who has not been traumatized would not recognize any danger at all. It changes the circuitry in your brain and it’s like there is a superhighway to your amygdala that alerts it to danger even when it’s not there.


Use of this psychiatry[2] connotation might be apt. Thinking of safety focus as a result of a hypothetical accident may increase an individual’s concentration.

Keeping awareness at a high level is difficult. Below are two articles which may be helpful in refocusing your team’s safety consciousness. The first is a result of a recent spate of helicopter accidents and is an Open Letter sent to the US Helicopter Community by the President of USHST. It was driven by compelling recent events, but the lessons should not be limited to helicopter operators:

Dear helicopter pilots, mechanics, operators, instructors, etc.:

The U.S. helicopter industry just endured the worst ten-day stretch of fatal accidents observed since late 2012.  Within the 50 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, four fatal helicopter accidents and four fatalities occurred from June 29 to July 8, 2018, a pace of nearly one fatal accident every other day.  Investigations take time, so the underlying cause of each case will not be known for some time.  However, there is one thing we know with certainty.  None of the individuals involved in these tragic events woke up that morning thinking this would be their last helicopter flight.  The series of fatal helicopter accidents is a reminder to our community.  There is sometimes a fine line between a flight that ends uneventfully and one that ends disastrously.

We are still early in the summer with plenty of good flying weather in front of us.  In the wake of this recent surge in fatal accidents, let us take some time to think through how we can make sure the rest of the summer is spent with enjoyment rather than grief.

  1. Review your basic procedures.  The simple, mundane practices are often what keep us safe.
  2. Consider what effect summer temperatures will have on the performance and limitations of your aircraft.
  3. Contemplate what factors may be subtly building up your cumulative fatigue.  Days in the summer are long, often resulting in more activity and less sleep. 
  4. Practice real time risk management, even with small decisions.  Make a habit of mentally asking yourself, “What could go wrong with what I’m doing right now?  What could I do to make sure the worst case scenario doesn’t kill me?”

As a community, let’s all do our part to ensure the ten-day surge in fatal helicopter accidents is an anomaly and does not stretch into a long-term trend.  Fly safe today.

The second bit of advice is written by Dennis Taboada, CEO, President at DTI Training Canada Ltd. and bears the title-So..Your SMS is not Continuously Improving…..Chill Out!



“After working with dozens of different enterprises, implementing Safety Management Systems, SMS, and Quality Assurance Programs,QAP, I have discovered several reasons why the SMS/QA stops working after a while.


The following are some reasons you need to examine in your own company:


Loss of Interest in the Regularly Scheduled Safety Meetings:

When an SMS is first implemented, everyone is on board and enthusistic about the Process so the weekly safety meeting are well attended. Over time people begin to lose interest in the weekly safety meetings. Managers start falling back into their pre-sms modes. It is imperative that upper management stress the importance of the participation in the weekly meetings. These meetings are where we roll up our sleeves and really look at the reports and analyze root cause. The result of the weekly meetings should be corrective action plans that actually provide the action to continuous improvement.

The Deming Cycle for Continuous Improvement

Hazard/Incident reports as well as audits results drive the Risk assessment, Root Cause Analysis and Corrective Action Plans that are results of the weekly meeting.

This is the engine of the SMS. See


Reduction of DATA Collection

There are some great SMS Software programs. I have experienced SMS Pro and Vortex and found these to be excellent programs. But, “Garbage in – Garbage out.” In order to maintain “CONTROL” we need to consistently measure our processes to provide quality data. Yearly audits just don’t cut it.

A consistent audit verification program provides excellent data to enter into the SMS engine analysis system. The Hazard and Incident reporting system must be encouraged by middle and upper management. A good SMS Software program will keep track of the progress of each report, communicate to key people, and help the SMS manager to control the flow and completion process of each report.


Poor Corrective Action Plan implementation

Once the Causal factors have been determined through a robust Root Cause Analysis, RCA, it is important that the corrective action be “realistic” and supported by upper management. Of all the impediments to a successful continuous improvement program, lack of follow-through on the corrective action plan is the highest.  All CAPs should be monitored and checked by the Quality Assurance department to make sure that what we said we would do is actually what we did.

Turn Over

According to the United States Small Business Administration, SBA, “…employee turn-over is the highest cost to a small business.” Because of this reason, it is important that your enterprise have a “system” of control. All job functions throughout your company must be controlled through robust procedures. New employees need to be taught to depend on procedures to perform functions. Do things by the book. 

Dr. Joseph Juran, Founder of the famous Juran Institute

Dr. Joseph Juran, ” all processes should be so well documented that you could replace an entire department with new employees and you should be able to make the same product with the same quality…” The “system” approach assures that processes are not people dependent.

In addition, new employees must hired and trained with the same or greater commitment to the SMS. It is the job of management to permeate the organization with a safety oriented culture.

Communication breaks down

Its so easy to fall back into old habits. Managers get absorbed into their day-to-day routines. Communication begins to slow down between the SMS teams and we begin to forget the importance of robust safety communications between departments. Management needs to continually emphasis to the workforce the importance of reporting incidents and hazards.


Entropy defined, “lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.” How do we fight entropy in our system?  The secret is constant renewal of Goals and Objective. As we gain control of an area or process, identified as high risk areas, we need to replace the goals and objectives with new ones that come from our Safety Risk Profile and Hazard Registry, ( see goals and objective from your Safety Risk Profile.)


Another tool to fight entropy is training.  There should be constant and robust training offered throughout the organization. Training not only equips people to do a job, but it is also a very effective tool of communication. Many policies can be reinforced in the training courses.


Entropy can be fought off through recognizing success stories within the organization. Remember we are collecting data through reports and audit results. Well, do we recognize areas that pass their audits. SMS and Quality Assurance is often looked at as a system that recognizes failure. We should applaud success as well.


In my 30+ years implementing Quality and Safety Management Systems I can testify to the fact that if we remain diligent, we can achieve a true process of continuous improvement. We have many success stories to back up this claim. It is up to management to recognize this and support it in order to make the organization successful.


Dennis Taboada, M.eng., CQE, CQM


Both papers provide useful suggestions on how to reinforce your constant vigilance. IF YOU HAVE SIMILAR AND/OR BETTER SUGGESTIONS, please include in the comments section below.


[1] This is a phrase used by the kooky one-eyed auror, Alastor “Mad-Eye Moody,” in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series. The character was introduced in the fourth book of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. So posters of this character might serve as useful reminders to those of the Harry Potter generation.






[2] Think through what actions you would take for various aircraft emergencies.


Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin

Be the first to comment on "Some good ideas as to how to maintain CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!!"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.