Aviation Managers urged to gain workers support to boost safety

Wayne Farley

A Guyana-born airport safety manger working abroad has advised local aviation authorities that safety within the sector comes with many spheres; but garnering employees support will ultimately foster reports of undesired matters.

As such, with more than two decades of experience as an Air Traffic Controller under his belt and 11 years as the Safety Management System (SMS) Manager with the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority, Wayne Farley says he has found that workers’ trust in management could be an asset in improving aviation safety.

In an interview with this newspaper, Farley explained that information on safety leadership has shown that “great leadership is what gets people to do things they don’t normally do.” An example, he explained, is to voluntarily report incidents, accidents, mishaps or mistakes made on the job.

“As senior managers they need to know these things so that they can find root causes and fix them before they turn into something undesirable.”

Farley told a gathering of aviation managers, other staffers and stakeholders at the Duke Lodge last week that promoting communication between managers and staffers is ideal. He said that managers should encourage candor; workers should be able to report both good and bad issues developing in their relevant work area.
“If you are not encouraging them to be candid then lots of things will slip by,” Farley alerted.

He added that crowd sourcing could be another way to get information about what is happening in the work place. “There are things that happen in the organization when you are at the top of the chain, that seldom get to you unless it is catastrophic, but all the little events that might have been taking place over the years that would have eventually caused something catastrophic are known at the bottom.

“The reason it did not get to the top is exactly because we are either stifling dissent, or we are not encouraging people to be candid about what it is they want to report.”

He explained dissent as being good for the crossover of information between management and staffers.

“If you want to learn what is going on in your organization, then your unhappy customers (your staff who are your internal customers) are your greatest source.” Cultivating a just culture in the organization was another issue raised.

“In order to do this, employees need to be treated fairly; they need to feel as part of the team. They need to know that when something happens they are treated just like everyone else in the organization; otherwise you will not gain their trust in coming forward voluntarily.”

Farley emphasized his belief that staffers freely reporting issues occurring in the aviation sector are a huge benefit to stabilizing safety. He also highlighted several other reasons why staffers would be resistant to making reports, including fear and embarrassment. Issues like these, he explained, should be dealt with to prevent barricades in communication.

Farley stated, however, that as in any other sector, it’s always a decision for the powers that be to allocate more resources. “Obviously if more resources are allocated in an area, you stand to gain more and make the system more robust. I would want to believe that aviation (in Guyana) is proliferating in a manner that makes it safer.

“We do have unfortunate incidents that happen from time to time but I don’t think that says necessarily that things are not being done right.” He explained that most times when an accident or incident occurs it is something new that would have happened since usually measures are put in place to tackle a previous problem.

However, many local aviation stakeholders have registered their discontent with the pace of advancement of the sector. They noted that while the industry is growing, enough resources are not being substituted. Additionally, a management audit is to soon take place at the country’s aviation authority as numerous complaints on how certain departments are being managed has caused Authorities, including the portfolio Minister, Robeson Benn to take action.

So far for the year, Guyana has experienced two serious accidents, with the deadliest claiming the life of a Canada-born pilot and a local cargo handler. The engine is suspected to have failed. Another accident that occurred at the local aerodrome has got the pilot in hot water as he is being accused of using his cell phone during takeoff.

The Aircraft Owners Association has also expressed disappointment at what it says is the meager funding placed in the sector by the Administration.

Source: Kaieteur News

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