Unhappy? No, but...

After a short hiatus and a new job, I've decided to start blogging again. This time on topics related to my new job. My old blog was slanted towards airport safety but with my shift into a more general and strategic role, I thought I'd shift the blogging to a new home and recommence putting my thoughts out there. The name of this blog comes from a chapter in James Reason's 1997 book, managing the risks of organisational accidents. In it, Professor Reason provided a number of reasons why the regulator's lot is an unhappy one.

There are quite a few issues brought up in the chapter with one of the main negative issue being that the regulator is unlikely to receive any accolades for "bringing about a non-event" but is sure to "be judged by those with 20:20 hindsight as making significant contributions to a major disaster".

There is a positive take-home message for those of us silly enough to be a regulator - Professor Reason thinks that we "are potentially one of the most important defences against organisational accidents".

That got me thinking about "that" graph that you see in most safety-related presentations. You know, this one1: "that" graph In an effort to get ahead of the curve, I often turn my mind to trying to identify the next paradigm shift in accident prevention. And being a fairly egotistical, I'm convinced that the next step resides with the regulator at the industry level. Before you judge me too harshly, these's a trend behind my conceit.

At first attention was focussed on the fundamental unit of aviation - the aircraft. Then as the ROI on technological advances slowed, attention shifted to the pilot or the human factor. Then we looked into interactions between pilots with the advent of cockpit resource management. Which morphed into crew resource management when it started looking at cabin crew and then ground crew. At the moment a lot of work is going into company-level interactions - safety management systems and culture.

But it won't stop there, it can't. Traffic will continue to increase and with it, the number of accidents2. The public, travelling or not, will demand safety be better and tickets be cheaper.

So, I think the next frontier will be at that regulatory level. It will involve national and international authorities and its going to involve a lot of reform and a lot of change. It's going to be a hard slog but we've asked those in the industry to rethink safety on a number of occasions. Its not too much to ask ourselves to question the impact of our actions on safety at the frontline and make changes where appropriate.

I'll be posting my thoughts on topics relating to aviation safety regulation here, when I can. Topics I have in the hopper include risk assessment matrices, compliance v safety and safety management systems at the smaller end of the industry. Here we go...

1. I've got quite a few gripes with this graph, I hope to address them in a future post.
2. Actually, some believe we're overdue for an increase in the accident rate.