When it Really Matters: How Safe are Your People?

kelvintop-set News

Making things better and constant improvement is all part of good management and professionalism.

Relating this to incidents, one can see that successful outcomes from even the most extreme events are down to good teamwork, communication and professionalism, achieved through training and best practice. Clearly, though, in all extreme situations people are tested and we don’t know how any of us will react until we are personally involved.

Reviewing TOP-SET investigations over many years, there have been some extreme incidents where it was clear that a lack of teamwork and poor communication were major contributing factors and perhaps even the root causes of incidents that went very badly.

However, there were many incidents where those in charge, with their team, were the right people on the day to handle what came their way. Here are some well-known instances of this:

  • More recently in the public domain we saw how, on April 17th this year, Captain Tammie Jo Shults successfully landed Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, when the plane sustained serious damage over Pennsylvania. Sadly one life was lost, but all others survived. Captain Shults said that it wasn’t due to her efforts alone, but coordinated teamwork.
  • The press and film industry have quite rightly made much of Captain Chesley Sullenberger landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, when both engines failed because of a goose strike in January 2009. He had wonderful flying skills, but he also led the team that ensured all lives were saved.
  • A British Airways Jumbo lost all four engines and cockpit visibility because of a volcanic ash cloud while flying over Indonesia in 1982. This was a near disaster but the skills, training and professionalism of both pilots and the flight engineer ensured a successful outcome and awards for the crew.

Okay, these are extreme examples, and we all hope that none of us will ever be tested to these limits. However, the common factors in achieving these levels of professionalism were training, excellent communication, and teamwork. In every organisation, and in every sector, we can make safety and business even better by seeking constant improvement through attention to detail and excellent training.

At the heart of all of this is the need to focus on communication. Again, returning to TOP-SET investigations, the biggest single contributing factor in almost every incident investigated was the failure of effective communication.

One senior manager of a seriously high-hazard business with a great safety record said, “You can never ease back on safety. It requires constant attention”.