By: Brian L. Fielkow
Throughout Donald Trump’s campaign for President, slashing regulations has been a core theme. Many of President Trump’s cabinet nominees are long standing opponents of a heavily regulated business environment. To underscore his seriousness about deregulation, Carl Icahn, a historical proponent of deregulation, will serve as Trump’s Special Advisor on regulatory reform.
As regulations are rolled back or right-sized, the concern: is safety being compromised? The answer is easy: It’s up to business leaders – both labor and management. This has always been the case regardless of the political climate.
This is especially true in the charter and business aircraft industry. From an outside viewpoint, the level of safety is measured by crashes and regulatory compliance. When we measure crashes, it’s too late. We are basing our measurements on a tragic event. When we look at compliance, at best we are looking at meeting standards that define the minimum. At worst, we are spending time jumping through hoops that really do not drive safe outcomes.
Consider the myriad of risks that lead up to a crash, including: poor planning for weather conditions, near misses at the airport or in flight, crew fatigue, and personal distractions. The list goes on. Regulations will not fix most of this. If we do not practice prevention by catching these behaviors ahead of time by utilizing voluntary safety reporting such as ASAP, then we will continue to clean up crashes.
So how do we practice prevention? I look forward to joining ACSF on March 8 to share easy, high-value tools for you to build and grow a culture of prevention. The ACSF Safety Symposium will be held at the NTSB Training Center in Ashburn, VA. Please click here for further details.
Responsibility for safety always rests with business leaders and not with regulators. You see, the government’s promulgation of regulations does not necessarily increase safety and therefore their repeal will not necessarily disrupt safety.
Safety and regulatory compliance simply are not the same. While some level of regulation clearly is essential, when politicians and regulators dictate the structure of our safety programs, there is a low probability that desirable safety outcomes will result. At their best, regulations provide only the minimum to get by. Take two hypothetical companies. Assume that both are fully compliant with all regulations. The first company has a tightly woven safety culture; values are aligned; leadership and front line employees are all engaged. The second company views safety as a cost; leadership is not engaged, unless OSHA visits or it’s time to renew insurance. The fact that both companies are compliant has nothing to do with how likely Company 1 is to yield much safer outcomes than Company 2.
When high profile safety failures occur, a knee-jerk reaction is to run to Washington D.C. for the solution. While the government can and must be a partner in promoting safety, oftentimes the promulgation of more regulations provides the appearance of action, when in reality, safety is driven and owned by the private sector.
Here’s how business leaders can drive desired safety outcomes faster than any new regulation:
Ensure your employees report a near miss without fear of retribution. This will allow you to diagnose and prevent near misses so that an actual accident does not occur in the future.
Get out on the floor. Create a system of field-behavior observations to ensure employees are following processes.
Bring your front lines inside. They have the best idea of where the risks lie and, if engaged, will be your greatest source of information. Lecture less and listen more.
Ensure an ongoing system of process audits exists. Be your own worst critic to find flaws in the system and locate areas for improvement. Don’t wait for OSHA to visit.
Promote a culture of accountability. Every employee should adopt a mindset of prevention and should be personally accountable for making this happen, both individually and peer to peer.
Implement a new employee onboarding process that instills preventative behaviors from day one. Just because a new hire knows how to execute a given job function does not mean that he or she knows how to do this in your organization and in line with your safety values.
In addition to simply repealing wasteful regulations, President Trump has the opportunity to establish a new tone between businesses and regulatory agencies. Let’s move from enforcement to collaboration. Most businesses want to operate safely and simply need the tools. What if we redirected some of our regulatory resources to helping these businesses improve, as opposed to looking for way immediately penalize them? Of course, enforcement efforts are appropriate for willful and repeat violators. For the majority of businesses who desire to operate safely, a collaborative approach will yield better results than one of assuming guilt at the outset.
If you think that changing the tone between regulators and the private sector is far-fetched, consider the fact that it is working well in so many areas. Examples include: EPA’s Smart Way initiative, OSHA’s VPP Star certification and the FAA’s self-disclosure program. Each of these highlights that public and private sectors can work collaboratively toward a shared goal.
Are you ready to uphold your end of the bargain?