Changing culture is a tricky subject at the best of times, but aviation specialists agree that in order to improve safety in Europe's skies, it is crucial to change the Safety Culture within organisations.
t a conference in Rome, Italy, almost 100 senior managers (CEOs, COOs, Safety Managers and Safety Experts) from European Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), together with representatives from the USA's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) discussed and shared experiences on how to implement a Safety Culture. The conference, organised by EUROCONTROL and ENAV (Italian Air Navigation Service Provider - Ente Nazionale Assitenza Volo), had as an objective to demonstrate that commitment and leadership are necessary in order to raise the awareness, understanding and motivation that will result in a Safety Culture. "Put simply," said David McMillan, Director General of EUROCONTROL, "Safety Culture is the way safety is perceived, valued and prioritised within an organisation. It reflects the real commitment to safety at all levels within the organisation. Safety should not be seen as a cost but as an opportunity to achieve superior business performance. Good safety also drives good business outcomes." The term 'Safety Culture' was first applied in the nuclear power plant world in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. This plant had a safety management system and trained operatives but deficiencies in the attitudes to safety in the organisation led to the world's worst nuclear disaster. Since then, use of the term has spread to other industries, including Oil and Gas, Chemical, Rail, Aviation, Medical and Air Traffic Management, where it has recently been applied to both the Überlingen and Milan Linate accidents in 2001 and 2002 respectively. It is widely recognised within the aviation industry that the existence of an appropriate and comprehensive Safety Management System, of which Safety Culture plays an integral part, is necessary for maintaining and improving the safety of Air Navigation Services and ANSPs across Europe. ANSPs have already made a substantial effort to meet the European Commission requirements to implement a robust SMS. "EUROCONTROL's strategic vision is that by 2013 all of Europe will have engaged in Safety Culture in one form or another," David McMillan added. "Our aim is for each ANSP to have a clearer and more comprehensive risk picture, and its entire staff to be involved in keeping the industry safe. ANSPs will share information and learn together how best to tackle existing and new problems in safety. The vision is also that other industries will look towards Air Traffic Management as a leader in the field of making Safety Culture deliver sustainable safety, whilst remaining profitable and environmentally responsible."