NTSB Member Sumwalt’ s Talk on Safety Culture is filled with superb educational content

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Article: Safety Culture: How Leaders continue the journey


The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines culture as “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)”. That is an amorphous concept that is not readily translated to a work place. Clearly, all aviation concerns want to achieve that estimable status, but there are very few concrete roadmaps of how to instill that way of thinking, behaving or working.

Member Sumwalt , who has been an airline pilot, worked on ASRS at NASA, led a safety team at ALPA and taught at USC, gave an excellent presentation (above link) at Embry-Riddle. He uses an organizational pyramid to infuse the appropriate actions at each level of the society in which this Safety Culture is to be created.

The PowerPoint presentation is well worth your review. Here are a few highlights of Member Sumwalt’ s talk:

· Leaders: “Safety culture is the core values and behaviors resulting from a collective commitment by leaders and individuals to emphasize safety over competing goals to ensure protection of people and property”.

· “… it is worth pointing out that if you are convinced that your organization has a good safety culture, you are almost certainly mistaken”

· “A commitment to doing things right. Always. Normalization of Deviance: When not following procedures and taking “short cuts” and becomes an accepted practice. “

Member Sumwalt illustrates his points with NTSB investigation lessons, examining past errors and pointing out the error in the safety culture. Because the examples are drawn from real aviation fact patterns, they provide excellent learning tools.

Using this PowerPoint presentation with your team is a superb teaching tool and relying on his real world failures should help your organization should be a good first step in creating and/or reinforcing a living Safety Culture there.

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