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Why Transparency in Airline Safety is an Important Lesson to Other Industries

Jun 27th 2017

The transparency and openness of airlines is particularly important in terms of safety management and should serve as a good example to other types of organisations, such as the NHS.

In what some people called the 'greatest scandal to hit the NHS' – the failure of the health service to listen when its own people are warning that patient safety is at risk – did come as a shock to all. But why did it happen?

For years airlines have been addressing this very issue of safety, however when compared to the NHS, the commercial airline industry will still have only contributed to far less deaths in the last few decades. To continue the comparison, if the NHS was an airline it might be out of business by now.

In order for health services to evolve, they must first acknowledge any failings that have occured within a supportive environment. It's only from there that they will be able to learn from those shortcomings in order to improve.

It comes down to what the airline industry call “just culture”. This is where everyone within an organisation, from the board of directors and down, feels confident and empowered to voice concerns in a meaningful way if they have them.

It’s a culture of learning from even the smallest of event and can empower every member of the company to report the events. In a just culture there is no concept of trivial report, all information is valuable and every one plays their part in making the operation safe. This is the crucial factor in making workplaces safer – whether it’s the flight deck of a commercial airline or an A&E department – and it’s what people should be passionate about and design into every piece of software. 

Safety management systems enable airlines to record literally hundreds and thousands of occurrences which, in isolation, may mean little. However when that data is looked at in detail and over weeks, months and years, those reports can point towards systematic problems and, with the right analysis, remedied before tragedy can strike. 

Right now the NHS is entangled in a damaging perpetual loop of mistrust, suspicion and – worst of all – blame culture. Healthcare employees may not be as open to voicing concerns, which is hardly surprising given many who have decided to take a stand and become whistleblowers about unsafe practices or cost-cutting measures endangering lives have so often found their careers dumped on the scrapheap. 

An airline's focus always will be, to help their organisation become safer with systems and software built around “just culture”. 

It’s high time that healthcare services and other industries took this mentality on board if they want to leave the dark ages.  As an organisation it needs to embrace the openness and transparency displayed daily by airlines and put an end to the “blame game” that is costing lives.

Learn more about how safety management systems are a vital cog in the airline industry by downloading our free insight.