The relationship between the implementation of a Safety Management System and the attitudes of employees towards unsafe acts in aviation
Airports represent highly complex organisations, incorporating such interdependent operations as airlines, ground transport, flight services, ground services, refueling, maintenance, customer services, catering, administration and security. Airports, and especially International Airports, must ensure that their operations are conducted in a safe and efficient manner, as the consequence of any error or failure during operations has the potential for catastrophic outcomes. The international governing body for air transportation, ICAO, requires that airports must implement a Safety Management System as a means of ensuring safe operations and eliminating or reducing the likelihood of low frequency/high consequence incidents. This research project sought to determine the extent to which the implementation of a Safety Management System (SMS) influenced the attitudes of airport employees toward unsafe acts. The hypothesis tested was that the implementation of an SMS into an airport will result in an improvement in attitudes toward safety. A Safety Culture Survey was utilized to measure these attitudes. Two International Airports were chosen to measure the extent to which the introduction of an SMS at one airport would influence the safety attitude and culture of those employees. Sharjah International Airport, UAE, was used as the experimental group, as it did not have a formal SMS in operation, with another English-speaking International Airport (the Second Airport) being used as a control group, as it already had an SMS in operation. A Safety Culture Survey was used as the pre and post-test measure over a 12-month period to determine the extent of influence of the introduction of the SMS at Sharjah Airport. The results of Phase 1 of the survey (June 2008) were compared against the results of Phase 2 of the survey (June 2009). The average score reported by participants at Sharjah Airport increased significantly from pre-test measure to post-test measure in relation to communication, safety rules, supportive environment, personal risk appreciation, work environment, and involvement. At the same time, the average score for personal priorities decreased significantly from Phases 1 to 2. Results indicate that participants at Sharjah Airport recorded a significant positive shift in attitude to the safety factors covered in the Safety Culture Survey, whilst at the same time responses from the Second Airport showed no such shift in attitude. The Second Airport showed neither decline nor improvement in responses. Whilst some methodological issues were identified, the results were of sufficient strength as to conclude that the outcomes reported support the hypothesis that the introduction of an SMS at Sharjah Airport has effected positive changes not observed at the Second Airport. Recommendations for ongoing research were made to further explore the strength of relationship between SMS and safety attitudes, as well as the relationship between safe attitude and safe behaviour.
Air Transportation and Freight Services