I’ve just been in Geneva attending the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition, and Bombardier’s amazing learning experience for aviators – the Safety Standdown – is now an embedded part of what’s on offer there: a learning experience par excellence among the gleaming, glamorous hardware that EBACE presents.
When the study of human factors began in earnest during the 1970s, the focus was finding out why humans make mistakes, and the aim was to stop errors happening.
This was followed by the age of Reason (Prof Jim Reason of ‘Swiss cheese model’ fame).
Managers in aviation absorbed the considerable wisdom of Reason and other industrial psychology gurus, and now the currently accepted practice is is to design your safety systems on the assumption that human error will occur, so as to mitigate the outcome that results from mistakes.
Reason’s model is a great tool for understanding how humans perform within systems, and how systems can be designed, but many people have made a couple of highly misleading extrapolations beyond it: that humans do not really fail, only systems do; and that human error is inevitable.
Has “The System” (maybe your system?) stopped trying to prevent, or at least reduce, human error? It seems that many have lost sight of the individual in the organisation. Good training is traditionally the best way of keeping individuals up to scratch because it reduces the kind of human error produced by ignorance or incompetence.
Bombardier’s amazing, free-at-the-point-of-delivery Safety Standdown training seminars challenge this loss of human factors focus. The Standdown draws in pilots, engineers/mechanics, and cabin crew and trains them in the stuff they didn’t learn during even if they were well trained. They learn about themselves, about their weaknesses, their strengths, and they also increase the depth of their knowledge about stuff they first encountered during their training but may have forgotten since.
And no, you don’t have to fly a Bombardier aeroplane to qualify to attend the Standdown.
Now I’ll let the video of my interview with Dr Tony Kern do the talking. His presentation at the Safety Standdown reminds individuals of the power they have over their own performance standards.