SMS, Not the Press, is the Better Forum to Address Safety Issues

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ARTICLE: Ryanair pilots accuse airline of ignoring safety measures


An Irish television station aired a documentary which alleges that Ryanair’s management imposes practices and procedures which marginalize safety. The primary evidence cited is a survey conducted by the union and interviews by the station of pilots. In response, Ryanair cited its exemplary 29 year safety record and then alleged:

“’These people have no insight, credibility or objectivity in commenting upon Ryanair’s safety,’ Ryanair said. ‘This trade union group has no credibility, it lacks any impartiality, and its fabricated survey which claims to be based upon replies from less than one third of Ryanair’s over 3,000 serving pilots are a crude attempt to use baseless safety “concerns” as a cover for its failed trade union agenda.’”

What is befuddling is that Safety Management System (SMS) is mandated by the Irish Aviation Authority which presumes that Ryanair has implemented and its union participates in the air carriers SMS program. If the union believes that existing management practices and procedures are “risky,” the SMS data collected and the record of the management/union dialogue would be replete with information documenting the union’s contentions. That data would be infinitely more credible than an independent “survey.”

Further, if the IAA is aware of even marginal Ryanair practices, the governmental organization would have the power to influence or even compel management to change.

On the other hand, the above quote does not reflect the vocabulary of a strong and positive safety culture. Ideally, proactive management would respond to these charges by inviting the union to cite records supporting this contention and/or submit a paper explaining their concerns. Management would invite the union safety representatives to dialogue further how the issue, for example of fuel reserves, might be better presented to the flight crews in a way both conveying the cost performance while emphasizing the critical nature of safety.

SMS is not a tool for resolving labor/management issues, but to the extent that the union identifies and documents safety issues, SMS is the best and most appropriate forum to design proactive solutions. SMS is not a manual that is pulled down from the shelf on a periodic basis; it must be a 24/7/365 temporal and 360° visual construct that attacks potential problems before they actuate.

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1 Comment on "SMS, Not the Press, is the Better Forum to Address Safety Issues"

  1. This story, indicating that Ryanair “sacked” one of the pilots, suggests that SMS’ safety culture could use some help there.

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