Just Culture Safety in Aviation
The expectation is for aviation operators to increase the complexity and sophistication of their safety programs commensurate with the increasing complexity and sophistication of their operation. This means the safety program must implement new technology to acquire data, not only telling “what” happened but “why” it happened. This supports the maturation of the safety program from not only being reactive but also moving toward being proactive and predictive.
To acquire data telling the “why”, an operator must establish a data reporting system that protects the individual reporting from disciplinary actions by the company. You want employees feeling free to report their mistakes or near-miss mistakes. There are a few situations where the reporting isn’t protected such as drug/alcohol abuse, reckless behavior, or lapse in integrity. But over 90% of errors are caused by unintentional mistakes, most times influenced or caused by the company. We call these systemic influencers and if not corrected, will result in continual errors. Systemic influencers are usually attributed to failings in procedure/process development, documentation of procedures/processes, training programs, resources, and/or supervisors/managers. Imagine letting go of an employee who reported a mistake and then wondering why the mistake occurred. Well, you just let go of the best source of information to tell you why the mistake occurred, what was in their head. In addition, this is a perfect opportunity to motivate the employee to be a safety advocate instead of disciplining them and making them a safety adversary.
This protected reporting process is referred to as “Just Culture”. Just Culture in aviation incorporates specific algorithms that a novice supervisor or manager can use to determine if a safety transgression should result in a coaching moment, documentable situation, or a disciplinary offense. Just Culture safety is not a “get out of jail free card” system. Actually, the documentation requirements and standardized processes of Just Culture assist in the defense of performance situation decisions.
By creating a protected reporting system that employs Just Culture, you enable a healthy and vibrant safety culture that moves your safety program from only being reactive, to also being proactive and predictive.