09 Oct 2018 13:58

AUTHOR HarisLy12

The aviation industry is a pioneer in safety. It has achieved envious results compared to other modes of transportation being statistically the safest mean. Yet the industry mandates through regulation (SMS requirements) the need to achieve even better!

One of the methods and the backbone of the SMS is the reporting culture. Without any reports flowing through, the system will deprive out of data and will collapse. It will thus change from a proactive (or predictive) to a merely reactive system.

The aviation industry has made a pledge not to compete on safety and this has given the freedom to organisations and industry groups to freely share their experiences and their data events with other stakeholders (even with the regulator).


In the concept of safety culture and SMS, human error is seen as inevitable and part of the more wide and complex system. Human is not the weakest link, but is usually the last link that will have to hold together all the system


But there is a paradox! Pilots (and most of aviation’s front-line employees) are a group of educated and highly trained people. They go through checks for ability at least twice per year. The perception of infallibility is usually linked to the professional reputation. The author experienced many pilots who see the idea of admitting their errors as admitting their personal and professional failure. They may even come to the point of belief that admitting past mistakes, is a professional suicide and they will be pinpointed. The past perception is that either someone reports a mistake and gets in some kind of troubles, or simply does not report anything and keep the fingers crossed that nobody will find out!


Therefore, the biggest problem in creating a reporting culture is to convince the front-line people, about the protection of the data and the reporter. But the need to have a clear line between culpability and violation is essential! Hence, an organisation has to embrace a JUST culture. Just culture is all about bringing the bad news to the management without been scrutinized. It is a climate of openness, disclosure and learning.


Just culture is the basis for the reporting culture, but it must be clear where the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour is drawn and it is then communicated and understood. For any organisation to achieve this concept, it has to follow a top-down process. Research has shown that just culture is not only about SMS. Just culture can have a direct relation to people's morale, commitment to organisation, job satisfaction and willingness to do the little more required and to step outside their role for the good of the organisation. It is thus an operations and performance wide approach to culture.


4 main components of a Just Culture


The importance of the top management leadership cannot be emphasised enough when talking about just culture. It is up to them to draw the line and explain where the system will protect the reporter and the case where this will not happen. So, in a staggered approach to building a just culture, the first step is to explain to people their rights and their duties.

Then it is a decision of WHO draws the line of acceptable and unacceptable bearing in mind that this process will also need to take in account the national and aviation laws, always having in mind that blame free culture is not desired.

Furthermore, the organisation needs to establish the protection of the system from outside probing.

Finally, in order to succeed the national authority needs to get in the same mode and follow the same steps at the national level (which can be the most difficult step).


Real just culture can be elusive! But it is the backbone of the reporting system and without the willingness and confidence of the front-line employees to keep a high flow of information; the organisation will get derailed on course to achieving safety. Even with the legal framework backing it up, the establishment of a just culture remains a very challenging task and it is up to the leadership of the management to make the first and huge step, such that everyone will follow.