Employees are best at detecting unsafe and potentially hazardous conditions in the workplace. Safety managers must consider how to encourage employees to use aviation hazard reporting tools, such as Web-based hazard reporting forms, paper reporting forms, or offline hazard reporting software tools.
Aviation personnel are notoriously reluctant to report safety hazards for fear of retaliation or for fear of appearing incapable of dealing with workplace hazards. Safety managers should ensure employees know the various reporting options available, as well as the option for anonymous reporting. Well-structured and frequently mentioned non-punitive reporting policies often improve employee attitudes towards reporting hazardous conditions.
Companies often possess the best aviation SMS hazard reporting database software tools and still fail when employees don't believe in non-punitive reporting policies or when top management doesn't support "the process."
Explicit Top Management Commitment
Top organizational attitudes drives safety culture. Top management must communicate their commitment to a safe workplace for everyone. Safety managers must ensure department heads communicate to staff about how hazard reporting tools help the company achieve goals and helps the company become more competitive, thereby ensuring job security. Department managers should stress that employees must report hazardous conditions or events, whereby, the information helps eliminate and correct workplace risks while improving operations.
Other steps commonly improve corporate reporting culture and encourage the use of hazard reporting systems include:
Train employees to use hazard reporting systems. This training initial and recurrent training and should be documented in preparation of future audits.
Provide employees with access to their reported issues and let them know what to expect once reports are submitted. Routinely distribute aggregated report information to employees and also continue explaining the reporting and investigation processes in your SMS.
Establish, communicate and provide training (initial and recurring) on company non-punitive and anti-retaliation policies. If employees are expected to use hazard reporting systems, they will need to feel safe and protected.
Provide employees with structured access to management. Communicate the chain of command within the company and designate times when management is available to speak with them and answer questions. Offer training sessions regarding how to communicate openly within your organization.
Unless Employees are Aware, You Will Have No Reporting Culture
Employees must be aware your hazard reporting system exists, AND they must also know how to use it. One way to promote and encourage hazard reporting is by giving employees access to a knowledge base of past issues and resolutions, such as SMS Pro's "General Issue Viewer" of desensitized issues and the "Lesson Learned Library." Post signs and posters around your workplace reminding employees of their options when it comes to reporting hazards and events. SMS training and constant communication brings awareness to potentially hazardous conditions and necessary steps taken to reduce incidents and accidents.
Anonymity and Confidentiality in SMS Hazard Reporting
Provide employees with various options for reporting hazards or events, such as email, paper based reports, Web hazard reporting forms and offline hazard reporting tools. Make hazard reporting as easy as possible and accommodate various employee groups as their circumstances dictate.
Ensure your employees understand the differences between confidentiality and anonymity to avoid confusion between the two when they are reporting hazards. Whenever anonymous reporting is possible, employees should be given a way to track the investigation and follow up on the progress of their reported issue. In other cases, employees may opt for confidentiality and not anonymity. This means that individuals willingly expose their identity, but only to the safety managers and management team.
Offer Recognition or Rewards for Hazard Reporting
One way to reinforce hazard reporting is to give awards for hazard problem reporting, (e.g., by incorporating them into an existing award program for suggestions that save or make money for the organization). The amount of the award could be based on saving money (e.g., reducing lost time accidents), but there are many other ways to positively reinforce the message that hazard reporting is valued. The program should be well publicized, such as in company newsletters, as should the presentation of the awards.