When it comes to safety, the aviation industry is considered to be ahead of the game – they have to be, because a major incident such as a crash or explosion tends to have very large ramifications. The airline business is dependent on safety. The same is true of nuclear, where another Chenobyl could effectively end the industry. Other industries tend to look to aviation and nuclear for the latest methods and thinking behind safety, where safety is the number one priority.
Volume 6, Issue 12 of System Safety Service’s newsletter (http://www.system-safety.com/Aviation%20HF%20News/AVIATION%20HUMAN%20FACTORS%20INDUSTRY%20NEWS.htm) questions this. Is safety really the number one priority?
“The very [meaning] of the word “priority” requires that we evaluate competing [priorities]. So, calling safety a priority means it will change based on the needs or urgencies of the moment, such as trying to please a demanding customer or the boss to meet a schedule.
Admitting we might not always put safety first doesn’t mean we deliberately intend or want to be unsafe. But if we don’t have a logical, orderly process written down for everyone to follow, coupled with a firm management commitment, safety can easily take a backseat to the bottomline or the latest crisis du jour.”
Instead of making safety a ‘priority’, it’s much more important that safety is considered a value in the organisation. Priorities change according to the moment, weighted up against each other and calculated. Priorities are external to decisions. However, values run-deep through an organisation and can be a part of every decision made. The only question then is “how do you value safety”? Not an easy question to answer…
See the System Safety Service website for more (linked above).