As a past Director of Safety, nothing frustrated me more than finding out about a safety issue after it had an adverse effect on the company. A few I recall was a baggage cart with a brake not working that was not properly tagged as unserviceable. It was not taken out of service and during a storm gets blown into an engine nacelle damaging it. A wing hits a pole damaging an aileron during a towing with an insufficient number of spotters. A safety pin with a missing flag is overlooked during pre-flight and the aircraft had to return to the field because the gear would not retract.
Unfortunately, I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. A safety report ahead of each of these situations might have prevented each occurrence. However, getting employees to submit safety reports is easier said than done. The organization's safety culture and maturity of their Safety Management System typically influence safety report generation. The better the safety culture and more mature the SMS is, the more safety reports that are typically generated.
So, what can you do to increase safety reporting? Organizations that generate more safety reports usually do the following four things well with their reports and reporting system:
Any reporting system must be easy to access. Employees have shown they will forego reporting if they perceive the system as too difficult to access. To be successful, the safety program must have regular input from the employees. To be as accessible as possible, give the employees multiple ways to submit their safety report. The reporting system can be paper reports, by telephone, or electronic. Whichever way you choose, educate all your employees on the process of submitting a report. Publicize your reporting process using safety communication tools such as bulletins and posters.
Nothing discourages an employee from filing a safety report more than a long and complicated form. Create a report that allows them to submit just the key high-level points of an issue or concern. You want the employee to get in and then out of the system in as timely a manner as possible. A concise report form will help accomplish this. The Safety Manager will review the report once received and will contact the employee with any additional questions or additional information needed.
A good safety culture promotes transparency in all thing’s safety. While it is frustrating to air your “dirty laundry” for all to see, it is critical that you keep everyone in the loop. Awareness is essential to keep employees safe and reduce repeat safety issues. Therefore, the reports that are submitted to your reporting system should be summarized, and that information should be made available to all employees on a regular basis. In this way, your employees can always be fully aware of what safety issues or concerns exist. They also see that the report doesn’t stop with the submission. Additionally, it reflects a commitment by the organization to the safest operations possible.
One sure way to stop receiving reports is when an organization does not provide the submitter with feedback on their report. Feedback acknowledges to the submitter that a report was received and what actions the organization is taking to address the safety concern. This reassures the submitter that they are being heard and that their observations are important to the organization. The effect is that the submitter will be more willing to submit reports in the future and will more than likely let others know as well. A positive ripple effect, which leads to consistent reporting of safety concerns or events.
Remember, safety reporting is critical to an organization’s Safety Management System (SMS). To increase safety reporting within your organization, you must take steps to ensure that there are no obstacles to reporting by your employees and that they feel compelled to report any safety concerns or events. To improve your safety reporting going forward, focus on the accessibility of your reporting system, the conciseness of your report form, the transparency of the reports that are received, and providing feedback to each report submitter.