Understanding Safety / SMS Basic
Promotion through communication is essential for a mature and improving SMS. Two-way communication is required for correct flow of information. From employees to management (bottom-up) but also from management towards front-line employees (top-down). Lateral communication, between same level managers for example, is also important with exchange of information amongst the colleagues of each group of similar job description. Like every complete communication cycle, feedback is vital to keep the communication lines open. Through communication we ensure awareness of everyone about SMS (policies, findings, initiatives etc), conveyance of safety critical information, explanations about finding, decision, actions, changes in procedures etc. In cases a review email covering all the before mentioned can be enough.
Communication methods vary accordingly. A good SMS should utilise all the available methods of communication accordingly to the importance and urgency of the information. The list of methods can include. Bulletins, notices, posters, videos, digital updates, booklets, emails, seminars, newsletter, internal blog, forum etc.
The ultimate goal of safety communication is to foster a learning culture through the sharing and exchanging of information. This motivates people and encourages a reporting culture.
Communication is NOT a propaganda! Trying to brainwash people about being safe and not to make mistakes is NOT enough. People do not want to make mistakes. They like to be professional and they want to be treated as such. Communication is therefore more about explaining and understanding. As such it also needs to be relevant, create a sense of involvement, interest and the feel of being part of it.
A reminder; an effective message, regardless of the mean of delivery, must include the what, who, why, where, when and how. The organisation should be careful not to bombard people with too much and too frequent information. In an already over informed era, sometimes less is more! Short information, spread out on a wider period of time, in a direct and simple way, tailored on the targeted group, can be much more effective and relevant. The easiest way to achieve this is by addressing questions posed by the people (through any mean), or by releasing information on the achievement of a safety performance indicator (e.g. how many events). Sometimes a simple review or reminder of existing policies and procedures can be a good method.
Communication must not be restricted internally. Communicating with other organisations on safety issues is a very effective way to remain proactive. The exchange of safety related events and the comparison of the SPIs is an easy way to mature. Conferences are a good place for receiving information from others. Aviation is an industry that no service provider has ever tried to compete in marketing based on safety related data. Th exchange of information is therefore greatly protected.
The transparency of communication will build trust in all levels and functions of the organisation. Communication is the backbone of a mature safety culture and it is to be taken seriously. Learning together is always faster and more fun.