According to the responses to a survey we recently conducted, it is going pretty good, with some areas of concern. By “it,” I mean the state of safety culture in the aviation industry.
The survey was intended primarily to gather information about what our readers like and don’t like about AeroSafety World so that we can (a), improve the publication; and (b), show prospective advertisers that this is a credible, widely read safety publication. That last part — our hope going into the exercise — happily was confirmed; it seems as if most of you are very positive about what we are doing, with, as always, room for improvement. If you are a prospective advertiser, we’ll gladly share the survey results with you.
However, we also tossed in a couple of safety culture questions seeking opinions about changes over the past few years, and sent the survey to two groups — to our digital edition subscribers, more than 11,000, and to people on our FSF members contact list, a bit over 3,000. We got more than 1,000 responses; not every question was answered by every respondent, explaining why you won’t be able to add numbers to make 100 percent.
When we asked, are more people in your company actively involved in safety activities?, a very vigorous 81.1 percent of subscribers said yes, and an even happier 86.6 percent of the member list agreed. However, 9.7 percent of subscribers told us fewer people are involved; only 3.4 percent of the FSF member list agreed with that notion.
We asked if there were more cross-functional safety committees. Some 42 percent of the subscribers said yes, but 52.9 percent of the FSF members agreed, showing that someone has been paying attention. However, 13.1 percent of subscribers and 9.2 percent of members said that recently more safety decisions are being made by a single person, a fairly disturbing statistic.
It is easier to report safety problems and deviations for 52.6 percent of our subscribers and an even better 65 percent of FSF members, but more difficult for 6.8 percent of subscribers and 4 percent of FSF members.
An interesting switch in tone was revealed by responses to the question: Has regulator involvement recently been more helpful or less helpful? Among the subscribers, 30.4 percent said regulators have been more helpful, while only 24.4 percent of FSF members agreed. This approval gap widened even further when the question was if regulator involvement has become less helpful. Some 13.8 percent of subscribers believed this, while 23.5 percent of FSF members said this is true. I can only guess why these numbers broke down this way by pointing out that 18.4 percent of FSF member responses came from executive-level people, a much larger number than the 8.4 percent of executive-level subscribers. Perhaps — and this is just a guess — more interaction between regulators and executives produces a less-rosy outlook on the process.
I think we can take comfort in the fact that there is growth in the kinds of attitudes and practices that have been found to help reduce the risk of accidents, but we must also remain concerned that despite overwhelming evidence, some people and institutions are backsliding into old and counterproductive ways. Safety, it is said, is not a destination but a journey, and some have decided to take a disturbingly different route.