Just Culture standards can only be successfully adopted in aviation organisations when actively owned, led and role-modelled by CEOs as a first step, says Airways New Zealand CEO Ed Sims.
Mr Sims, who spoke at the CANSO CEO conference in Madrid earlier this week, urged aviation industry CEOs to take proactive and visible ownership of embedding Just Culture in their organisations
“The aviation industry in New Zealand is doing a great job of leading Just Culture standards. And I’m particularly reassured to see a growing trend for the key safety assurance role in an aviation company to report directly to the CEO. This is critical to maintaining the highest level of safety,” says Mr Sims.
He also stressed the importance of consistency across the aviation sector in adopting Just Culture standards.
“For incident reporting to have a real effect on safety, we need to ensure we’re focussed on being proactive and predictive in applying Just Culture standards. A reactive and investigative culture simply breeds reluctance, especially where an incident may involve the individual who should report it, or their colleagues.
“Proactive incident reports are like gold to a company like Airways because they enable us to flush out, learn from, and eliminate potential problems before they do any harm,” says Mr Sims.
In his speech, Mr Sims outlined four key principles for implementing and maintaining Just Culture successfully:
Simplicity – businesses must ensure that the process of reporting events is accessible and simple for staff to undertake
Trust – staff must trust that they will be safe from any recrimination for voluntarily reporting incidents
Ownership – culture change only works with proactive and visible ownership from CEO and throughout the organisation
Clarity – there must be a clearly defined Just Culture policy and process agreed with staff and unions.
Airways has adopted Just Culture standards to its incident reporting process, where anyone who self-reports an unintended mistake isn’t subject to penalties. Airways staff are instead congratulated for making the effort to report a concern, or for taking ownership of a mistake.
Mr Sims says, “Acknowledging the contribution of employees who make proactive reports, and ensuring there are no negative consequences for reporting unintentional mistakes, has had a huge impact on our reporting rates. It has built trust and engagement with staff, and helped us get to the root causes of incidents much faster.”
But he says it is important to maintain a clear distinction between deliberate or premeditated actions versus a simple mistake.
“A Just Culture doesn't mean a "no blame" culture. Reckless or rogue behaviour is not tolerated in our safety critical industry,” says Mr Sims.