I’m willing to bet that most people will agree that errors will exist in a positive safety culture. After all, humans make mistakes.
What about violations? Can violations coexist with a positive safety culture?
You bet…even willful violations.
|It is not the existence of violations, or even the tolerance for violations, that define your safety culture. It is how you manage them.|
Before the debate begins, let’s make sure we’re speaking the same language. The difference between errors and violations lies in the intent. Errors are unintentional. Violations are deliberate.
Errors are interesting and a good topic for later discussion, but let’s get back to how willful and deliberate violations to policy or regulation can exist in a positive safety culture.
In order to understand the issue, we must accept the fact that violations are intentional acts. In most cases, they are not committed with malicious intent. Individuals may knowingly deviate from policy, in attempt to meet mission objectives, truly believing they are not creating a hazardous situation.
Violations fall under three broad categories:
- Situational violations are committed in response to factors experienced in a specific operational circumstance, such as time pressure or high workload.
- Routine violations are policy workarounds that become the normal way of doing business.
- Organizationally induced violations occur when an organization attempts to meet increased output demands by ignoring or stretching policy requirements.
Examine your operations. Do you see where these defined violations could happen in your organization?
- What happens when passengers show up late and the duty day goes beyond policy requirements, even if it is only by 15 minutes?
- Do you have policies that require workarounds because the policy is outdated or ill-conceived?
- Do you give an “‘ata boy” to those that go the extra mile to get the job done, even when their actions are outside the parameters defined within your operational policies?
Looking at situational violations, how many pilots will head for home, knowing that they will run long on the duty day by only 15 minutes? How many pilot-managers will?
What about those routine violations? Do you chalk them up to, the way we do things around here,” or do you have a process for analyzing what’s wrong with the policy?
Are your situational violations reasonable? Have you done a risk analysis that provides guidelines for what circumstances allow for deviation from policy?
What about those routine violations that have become a way of life? Are they reasonable and safe? Why not run them through your risk analysis process to find out. If they’re safe, why not change the policy?
What about organizational induced policies? Are you stretching the bounds of reason and safety? If so, how long before the planets align and somebody gets hurt?
Here is the main point
Every organization has policy violations. They are simply a fact of life when people are involved. Violations can be an essential component in continuous safety improvement. Violations facilitate discovery of outdated or poorly designed policy.
It is not the existence of violations, or even the tolerance for violations, that define your safety culture. It is how you manage them.
Regarding your Safety Culture
It is important to realize, safety culture is either positive or negative. It is never neutral?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you actively take steps to protect your organization from policy violations?
- Do continually monitor activities and analyze your procedures to determine what role they may play in policy violations?
- Do you actively encourage safety reporting or discussions?
- Do you suggest that personnel use “common sense” rather than follow policy?
- Do you ignore policy violations until something happens?
- Do you react harshly to policy violations or do you attempt to understand why they happened?
|Hazard information is:||Suppressed||Ignored||Actively sought|
|Safety messengers are:||Discouraged or punished||Tolerated||Trained and encouraged|
|Responsibility for safety is:||Avoided||Fragmented||Shared|
|Dissemination of safety information is:||Discouraged||Allowed but discouraged||Rewarded|
|Failures lead to:||Cover-ups||Local fixes||Inquiries and systemic reform|
|New ideas are:||Crushed||Considered as new problems (not opportunities)||Welcomed|