1998-04-06

Organizational Resource Management to Achieve Advances in Aviation Safety 981230

Investigations into the causes of civil aviation, nuclear powerplant, military aviation and commercial shipping accidents have shown that human error is a contributing factor in 60 to 80 percent of the cases. Long term research has demonstrated that these events share common characteristics. Many problems encountered by the operators have very little to do with the technical aspects of the tasks required. Instead, problems are associated with poor group decision making, ineffective communication, inadequate leadership, ineffective listening and poor task or resource management.
These observations have led to the consensus in industry and government that training programs should place emphasis on these “interpersonal skills”. In aviation, coordinated efforts by regulators, researchers and industry have produced sophisticated simulator training in Crew Resource Management that has resulted in significant changes in flight crew performance in actual flight. CRM trained crews operate more effectively as teams and cope more efficiently with non-routine situations. However, flight crews trying to apply these same skills with middle and upper level management have often been frustrated, if not thwarted, in those efforts by lack of understanding and appreciation for the very CRM principles that the management has paid them to learn and use in their flying.
At the same time, CRM has continued to grow and evolve. There is a new focus on organizational and cultural issues. This fourth generation CRM has recognized that there are management issues that need to be resolved before beginning flight Crew Resource Management training. This realization has evolved from the recognition of the influence of organizational policy decisions regarding: schedules, automation, fatigue, duty cycles, time pressure, etc. on safety issues formerly thought about as individual human errors. These policy decisions and operating procedures which can “set-the-stage” for human error can be thought of as latent pathogens which if left untouched will guarantee future accidents or incidents.
The primary focus of this paper is to provide important, practical “Advances in Aviation Safety” through a comprehensive Organizational Resource Management (ORM) program. To achieve this goal, the paper will focus on:
  • Developing a pro-active, company-wide resource management technique to establish the “Safety Health” of a company.
  • Providing a cultural “Wall of Resistance” to human error accidents.
  • Defining a method to trace accident causal paths throughout a company or organization when an accident does occur.
The purpose of this structured approach to ORM is not to establish blame or identify individual fault in the causal paths, but rather to identify systemic problems and seek appropriate remidial action. This should insure that corrective actions can be defined and implemented throughout the entire corporate safety system and not simply respond or react as a “band-aid” solution to specific events.

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