Quality Safety

Where is the Source for all of this?

Written by Sergio Romero

Words are becoming smaller in meaning and effectiveness with this new Airport Services Manager I had a meeting to attend with. The bright light and white glass door of his office do not allow me to understand how this airline ended into this. He is a champion for resource optimization. But believe me, bright lights are not usually a scenario for smart and safe ideas at the same time. We are under the main client’s magnifying glass, and the CEO asked us for cutting everything that means unnecessary expenses. And he meant it when he called us: Be creative, when I say everything!

Once again I had to admit my partner at the CAA in my country was right. Attitude can define a lot of things to happen for better or worse. It is clear that we are facing here an individual factor. But this can turn into the behavior of a group, when the culture is invaded by a plague It means the organization itself was not capable or not proactive enough to detect latent failures. They become everywhere a spot is potentially possible to exist. Any blank, any hole, any doubt in the regulation or procedure is the seed for these failures. During my career in aviation that began in the summer of 1988 working with my old man, I saw in several airlines and maintenance organizations as follows:

  • Commitment documented, but not understood by Top Management;
  • Safety accountability neither enforced nor assumed by company staff at all levels;
  • Labor climate set for individuals fighting against each other, which means a competence is open for a strong group to defeat a weak one, regardless the winners interests are the company’s or not;
  • Management documentation (manuals, instructions, set of orders, internal regulations) set as a defense to demonstrate something, but not to defend the system against errors; and
  • Organizations performance without the principles, help and gate keeping capability of the risk management process.

Do you guys think all the questions above are related with individual behavior? Since some years ago a hunch is in a sightseeing tour around my mind. All these questions mean organizational errors to me, which matches with this statement by Sara Garfield and Bryony Dean Franklin in the Pharmaceutical Journal of 2016: “Since the 1990s, a system-focused model has been advocated instead. In contrast to the person-centered approach, this model’s philosophy is that errors are caused by systems of which humans form only one part. Organizations using the systems approach seek to reduce errors by looking at a range of factors, including the organization itself and its policies.”

I regain consciousness and pay attention to this manager. He tells me he has been reviewing all my work and he just saw I was granted acceptance of the Training Manual by the CAA. How comes you made revisions to the manual? Does this mean you made errors in the previous versions? he asks. I keep quiet. This is not happening to me I tell myself. I had to explain to him all the aviation documentation system features and the possibility to revise documents to keep them current according to new requirements. I did not know that. Do not get mad at me, buddy, he smiles quick and clumsy. The above questions come again to prevail, but I will struggle with perseverance and drive because I am certain the strength of an airline is the organizational behavior, the Top Management commitment, and the analysis of not enforcing the defenses to work as planned in a systems-based approach, safety’s and finance’s sake included.


About the author

Sergio Romero