Safety: Not just a flight issue

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There is a very big misconception about the aviation industry. A majority of the public think only two jobs exist within our industry: pilots and flight attendants. If I had a nickel for every time I was asked if I was a pilot when I told someone I worked in aviation, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog.

This misconception seems to carry over into safety programs as well. I can’t tell you how many safety manuals and programs I’ve seen that purely focus on the flying aspect of our industry.

It’s easy to understand why this misconception exists.

Everyone sees the airplane as the representation of the company. They never see all the people working behind the scenes to get that airplane in the air. Also, the worst case scenario for safety concerns is an airplane crash. But think of this:

One major carrier that is headquartered in Texas has 79,000 employees worldwide. Of those 79,000 employees, 11,500 are pilots, 18,000 are flight attendants, and 9,500 are mechanics and ground service/ramp personnel. These three positions make up almost 50% of the total workforce that are directly involved with the aircraft.

But that also means another 50% of the company is not involved directly with aircraft. These people fill the HR, Accounting, IT, Tech Pubs, and Legal departments, among many others. Having a safety manual/program that is solely focused on the flight side leaves almost 40,000 people out of the picture.

A hiring manager may not have to worry about an airplane crash, but the injuries they could incur from slips/trips/falls, lifting, and repetitive motions could also create a high financial and resource burden on the company, not to mention the overall goal of keeping all employees healthy and safe.

An SMS should work for all employees of the organization. Ignoring half of your workforce when developing a program is setting your system up to fail and promotes a negative safety culture (they don’t care about us, why should I worry about being safe?).

Everyone within your company has an equal right to work in a safe environment. Review your safety program/manual. Is all the wording and programs based around those that directly interact with an aircraft? Is anyone on your safety committee representing all the employees who support your operation?

It’s never too late to adapt your system to meet the entire organization’s needs.

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