An SMS Journey to Work - How I wish I had a Safety Management System

By David Young

It's 6:30am on Monday morning and the alarm has just gone off... 

The first thing I do is check both my personal and work e-mails, scan Facebook, Twitter and the BBC news to name a few. This ten minute assessment of the world gives me an insight into what fortunes (or misfortunes) my day might bring.

My household, like most families, comes with a lot of disciplining, haggling and promising to get the family fed, watered and dressed! This all needs done within a specific time to ensure everyone can get to their relevant posts for the day, safely and on time with no unexpected delays.

On my final approach to the office this morning I couldn't help but think that today’s world is so fast paced with constant challenges, new demands and increased pressure. It amazed me, in my brief out of body experience, the number of decisions I had made from so many sources of information before 9am this morning.

As I glanced into my rear view mirror before turning into the office car park looking forward to my actual working day, I couldn’t help but notice the deep blue eyes of my two year old, who with a big grin said: "Daddy, no nursery today?" Obviously, I should have dropped her off well before getting anywhere near work!!! However, with the overload of information I deal with I had forgotten to do something just as important, like dropping her off before my final approach. 

Imagine if a Pilot took off without his or her passengers, or even landed and forgot to let them off before making the return journey?

The only reason a formal complaint wasn't lodged this morning against me is because she is two and can’t write…

Later on that day, I couldn't help but think that the very businesses that we all work for today are very much like this with additional factors to take into account such as safety, quality, security, cost, environment, regulation and competition…the list goes on (and keeps growing!) This has to mean that the pressure of maintaining oversight across all these processes is not only constantly increasing but must also carry some significant risks. For example, albeit slightly silly, not dropping a passenger off at her desired location...

How do we get through an average day, with all these factors to contend with, without something going significantly wrong?

Having worked with a number of company's Quality and Safety departments for over five years I’ve seen many Operational and Safety Monitoring Processes relying mainly on staff identifying existing or potential risks and hazards by using their own judgement, experience and skills. Often, if these unsafe practices are used regularly as a normal method of operation, it is very likely that the personnel involved in these activities would not recognise the actual and potential threats as ‘it’s always been done this way’.

If I look more closely at the Aviation industry, it is made up of a number of systems. The majority of information generated by these systems is critical, complex and has an impact on safety. It is essential to have an effective Safety Management System (such as our own Q-Pulse software here at Ideagen), requiring employees to have the right information at the right time in order to make the right decision. With the number of systems and complexity of the information contained within it, it can become almost impossible to achieve, resulting in risks being analysed long after they have occurred (reactively) rather than before anything has happened (proactively).

The majority of businesses would like to be more proactive in their approach to analysing risks at an Operational, Safety and Financial level.

This could be achieved by using existing technology in order to provide real time insight into the performance of specific operations. Giving an organisation the ability to monitor and analyse information originating from a large number of different sources would provide them a near real-time view across all stored information. However, some filtering system needs to be in place to ensure too much information isn't presented which may potentially prevent system critical information from being discovered and acted upon, (yes, such as not dropping my daughter at nursery!!!).

In my opinion (and yes we are biased but over 300 aviation organisations can't be wrong!!) Q-Pulse is that electronic system! Q-Pulse presents the information I need and when I need it, meaning that many operational risks can be mitigated against as I know what to do and when to do it.

I just wish that I could use the same systems in my personal life and not have to put up with the formal complaint raised by my wife after I told her I had forgotten to drop our darling daughter off at nursery…

To continue discussions, or if you want to find out about Ideagen's solutions for aviation safety management, then please get in touch.

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