Question & Answer: Safety has evolved from the fly-fix-fly methodology of Orville and Wilbur Wright to the system safety…

Safety has evolved from the fly-fix-fly methodology of Orville and Wilbur Wright to the system safety methodology. Write a 200-300 words discussing the reasoning for this change in philosophy and why management commitment is essential to a successful safety management program.

Responses and comments should demonstrate an understanding of the topics and theories presented. Cite specific examples (Hunt library, experiences, weekly readings, and resources from the Supplemental Materials page) to support your statements.

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Expert Answer

The fly-fix-fly system was mostly reactive in nature. It corresponds to the analysis of individual failures, related training, and risk management. In contrast, the system safety methodology is proactive in nature. The fly-fix-fly system was continued up to 1970 after which the system methodology started to get observed in terms of more focus towards human errors as by that time the technology was progressed. During this era, the main focus was to train and educate the human resource repeatedly regarding known modes of failure either from aviation industry or from other industries. But even when a lot of resources was invested in containment and mitigation in human errors, the predominant reasons for failures continued to get attributed to human mistakes.

This era continued up to 1990. From the mid-90s onwards, the methodology changed when the industry started collecting and analyzing the safety-related data routinely and made use of that in decision-making purpose. From that point onwards the concept of a proactive safety system was built gradually. A proactive safety system is deployed to identify and mitigate the hazards before the occurrence. Some of the components of a successful proactive safety system could be:

  • Clear safety policy having senior management’s involvement
  • State-of-the-art risk assessment methods for hazard and risk identification
  • Safety reporting systems to collect, analyze and report safety-related data on a regular frequency
  • Investigations of incidents and finding the system root cause
  • Dedicated and specialized safety training for personnel
  • Sharing best practices
  • Building a safety culture that fosters best safety practices and encourages timely safety communications with no fear of punishment

As mentioned above, the first and foremost component of a proactive system is the top management’s involvement. Since the proactiveness depends mostly on the collection and analysis of safety-related data, the success of such system depends on the culture of the organization. The culture depends on top management’s intention. Sometimes, within organizations, a culture of hiding and misrepresentation of data prevails. Here the top management is more focused in punishing individual responsible managers for each incident. In such cases, the data generated will never be free from bias and manipulation and hence the intended result that is expected from analyzing that data will also not be achieved. Top management should promote across all levels the necessity of bringing into light these actual data. In some good organizations, there exists a culture of rewarding people for reporting accurate data on time and for accurately describing an incident highlighting the real root cause. The top management of such organizations is acting towards the long-term goal of strengthening the proactive safety system.

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