Management Matters: Safety as Advanced Management

In the aviation world, risks we accept define our corporate culture and affect our day-to-day expectations

Safety-based organizations identify weakness and mitigate risk to support the mission while conserving resources. In fact the best companies are harshly realistic when it comes to evaluating their own performance and do so continuously. Safety doesn’t just drive hazard avoidance but also plays a part in conservation of resources. In doing so it contributes to the bottom line by minimizing loss and multiplying effort.

Safety margin

Leadership determines the maximum risk exposure acceptable to the organization. It defines the risk appetite. This may be planned using risk analysis or more intuitive means. For example, a dispatch organization may accomplish operational risk analysis to check the immediate environment and condition of a flight prior to departure to assure that operations risks are minimized. In maintenance, required inspections verify that work performed is accomplished correctly. Experience shows lesser performance may have immediate consequences to the safe operation of the aircraft. In aviation much of the margin is mandated by regulations which are a large reservoir of historical experience applied to normal aviation events.

We inhabit a margin of safety. The margin is a jungle of defenses and processes that mixed with human error and uncontrolled circumstances determine our place between absolute safety and unacceptable risk. A line drawn between both outcomes defines the breadth of probabilities that are possible. A systematic evaluation of routine policies and procedures provides a description of our exposure and the means to move away from unacceptable event probabilities. Organizations have begun regular use of continuous improvement of processes to drive good performance because of their continuous emphasis on development of internal experience. Whatever the choice is: safety management systems (SMS), root cause analysis (RCA), system safety, etc., should include the means to institutionalize positive norms that drive self-evaluation. Measure what you manage.

Self-image and consumer perceptions

Corporate images become a reflection of their safety experience. Customers’ perceptions of performance are based on the look and feel of the organization’s actions. Strong positive images include a positive reflection of safety attributes. In this context safety sells very well. While it may be difficult to explain how safety programs translate to good value to the customer, often the culture itself will communicate the message.
Aristotle said: “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather we have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”


Safety is an integral part of life. We use it everyday. It’s the outcome of our life’s experiences and those who came before us. Successful companies become world class when they build on their own experience to reinforce safety attributes within their organization as part of a corporate vision and strategy. This is often at the price of rigorous self-examination and feedback into the organization. In doing so they prepare for continued success by realizing economic or material conservation benefits and a continuously improving margin of risk. AMT

Vern Berry began his aviation career as an A&P mechanic in 1979. His experience within the aviation industry includes key management roles in quality and safety for both MRO and air carrier operations. He and his wife currently reside in upper state New York where he writes and manages a consultant firm at

We Recommend