In episode 2 of “The Faces of OSM Aviation Academy”, you will be introduced to our flight academy’s Safety Manager, Niclas Eriksson, talking about the importance of having a high-quality safety culture at a flight school and where the importance of encouraging people to provide reports is a top priority.
Niclas started his flying career as a student at OSMAA in 2008 and after his education, he decided to join the Swedish military which he was only planning on staying in for three months, but little did he know it ended up in being 4 years.
“They have a way of keeping you in the military longer than what you have planned. You gain a lot of good experience and learn a lot about yourself and how to approach certain things in life. Many of these things have shaped the person I am today and helped me in my aviation career.”
Niclas together with Flight Instructor Jesper on a ferry flight to Canada
After working as an air assault soldier for four years in Karlsborg, Niclas felt like it was time to head back to aviation and became a Flight Instructor at OSM Aviation Academy. He started as a Class Head Teacher, then moved up to becoming Chief Theory Knowledge Instructor for a year before entering his present position as Safety Manager.
The role of a Safety Manager in aviation
“First of all, I manage the safety management system… and now you may wonder what that is... well, a safety management system (or SMS for short) is a systematic approach on how we monitor the safety level of the company but also how we identify risk and hazards that we are exposed to so that we can mitigate them to an acceptable level”
Aviation is safe, but it’s not risk-free. Therefore, we need to find a way so that it’s easy to do the right thing, and difficult to do things wrong.
OSM Aviation Academy uses a reporting system where everyone can send in reports anonymously through our web platform. You can write a report on basically anything concerning both the safety and quality of the operations. The Safety Officer on each base will then collect this report and either monitor the trends or inform the responsible manager so we can find a corrective action. All reports are being looked at and all reports are being risk assessed.
When finding a correcting action, it is important to identify the root cause. Fixing the problem will solve it once, however, fixing the root cause will stop the problem from reoccurring.
Let’s say that you notice you’re out of toothpaste in the morning and therefore can’t complete your morning routine. You go out, buy a new one and the problem is fixed. A couple of weeks later the toothpaste runs out again, and once more you are unable to complete your morning routine until you buy a new one. This is known as a reactive approach. You let the problem occur and then fix it.
To stop the real problem, and in the same case increase quality, safety, or both, you want to work proactively by focusing on the root cause. So, you buy two sets of toothpaste. When the first one is empty you open the second one and add one toothpaste to the shopping list for your next store visit. In that way, you have reduced the risk of running out of toothpaste.
How many reports per year?
“The statistics of all the reports that we get is around 1500 per year for the whole company, this is everything from “a slippery staircase” to “we were near a bird strike during landing”, so the levels of our reports vary.”
“I’m happy that we have a lot of reports, this means that people are actually reporting! If we had zero reports then it would mean that people are keeping quiet about occurrences, and that can be dangerous.
A good reporting culture, where people are honest and open leads to both higher quality and safety for all our operations. “
Biggest challenge with being a Safety Manager
The biggest challenge with being a safety manager would be balancing between production and safety. If we wanted to be 100% safe we would just stop flying since there is always a risk when you fly, just as there is a risk when you walk outside. All though, that wouldn’t be optimal at a flight school.
We want to educate pilots and therefore we must fly - that’s what we do and the product that we offer. So basically, the challenge would be to keep improving and fly more and at the same time keep the high safety level that we have today.
More on this topic read: How we keep safety the highest priority of our flight training
Pros and cons with being a Safety Manager
The best thing is all the people I get to work with here, everyone likes to take initiative, they like to stay on their toes and are willing to improve, not only themselves but also the entire company. People often report solutions to the occurrences which means that we all strive for safe operations with high quality.
Since the reports we get are often on safety and quality occurrences, you tend to only see the things that need improvement. We don’t usually report stuff that is going well, so it’s easy to just see negative stuff, in this case, it is important to stay positive 😊
Defining a safety minded pilot
A safety minded pilot is first of all honest, if you, as a pilot, do something wrong and you choose to keep it to yourself, then that’s a huge problem. This because we are not going to be able to correct those types of mistakes and therefore we want honest and open pilots who are willing to admit their mistakes and learn from them. We’re all human and mistakes will happen.
Niclas together with Flight Instructors Jesper and Martin on Iceland
We have something in this company called “Just culture” which means that whatever you do, as long as it is not an unlawful act or you did it on purpose knowing that the outcome would be bad, there will be no consequences as long as you report the occurrence. We will not blame you for doing a mistake but will instead see how we can improve. Is there anything with our procedures or how we train our students that we can improve or maybe both?
A tip from me to stay safe in the air; "Always think ahead, identify the risks beforehand and mitigate them to an acceptable level. Work proactive and strive to improve yourself and the people around you. When it comes to safety, we are all in the same boat."
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