Safety culture is the expression of how safety is perceived, valued and prioritized by management and employees in an organization. Safety culture affects how key elements of SSP and SMS are established and maintained. Thus, safety culture has a direct impact on safety performance. Safety culture also has an important influence on the management of safety, and vice-versa.
Safety culture is arguably the single most important influence on the management of safety. ICAO Annex 19 requires that both States and service providers promote a positive safety culture with the aim of fostering effective safety management implementation through the SSP/SMS. The positive safety culture is embedded in every aspect of the implementation of the SSP/SMS. This is a strong commitment to safety at all levels – not only individual, organizational, national or regional but at the global level as well.
Whether organizations or individuals are willing to report their experiences and errors is largely dependent on the perceived benefits and disadvantages associated with reporting. Safety reporting systems may be anonymous or confidential. Therefore, a good reporting culture is to have trust at all levels, colleagues and management must share their experiences, and organizations and individuals must be able to trust they will be supported when reporting organizational or personal errors and mistakes. An increase in confidential reports and a decrease in anonymous reports is usually indicative of the organization’s progress towards a positive safety culture.
A positive safety culture takes effort and time to build. Some actions can enable or disable a positive safety culture. To develop a positive safety culture, management should provide resources for safety tasks, encourage staff to make decisions and take actions that promote safety as a value, engage with regulators as safety partners, involve staff in planning and implementing new technologies, establish clear processes and expectations on the completion of safety tasks, actively encourage staff input on safety issues.