Yes, most of us know this line all too well. The moment Captain Chesley Sully Sullenberger, addressed the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Bureau) Investigation Committee when presented with simulations that showed, pilots successfully returning to both La Guardia and Teterboro airports, after losing thrust to both engines as a result of a bird strike.
“Can we get serious now?” This resounding question has etched itself into our collective consciousness, resonating with a weight that transcends just words, and challenging the very reason why the investigation was taking place. To determine whether or not there was human error, that led to the water landing on the Hudson River.
This question at its very core, raised the issue of humanity or human performance and how a people, faced with a completely unknown and never before occurring event, would behave. The simulations showed that the aircraft could make it back, however, the pilots in both simulations…were warned! They were behaving like robots and the Thunderbirds!
Remember the number of practice attempts – 17!!! Sully wasn’t warned. This event was unprecedented in that never before, had there been dual engine loss, at a lower altitude than any jet in history.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know the rest..
What I want to convey here, is a parallel reality, no matter what the event, the circumstances, systems, controls, or technology available, there is ALWAYS an ever-present, human factor.
It’s people who define the path of safety, it’s success or failure within any business, and people will speak and act, in ways that are a direct reflection of their values, how they are valued, and even more importantly how they feel.
If we want to improve safety, if we desire a more cohesive safety culture, a trust-based environment, then make it human – make it about people. Invite their participation rather than demanding their compliance or worse, their obedience.
There remains an underlying resistance to safety, whether we like to believe it or not, because of this compliance and obedience mentality. To dilute this resistance, the safety profession must remove its self-serving nature of importance, and connect with the people who are truly at risk, day-to-day.
Write systems and procedures that speak human, instead of safety jargon that only safety professionals understand. Have real conversations, listen to hear, not to respond. Invite those at risk, to participate in developing safety strategies. Just a few very simple examples of what will result in a positive shift, toward better safety.
Due mostly to the ever-expanding and onerous regulatory environment, safety today is still losing its way, losing sight of its true purpose. Too much time is being spent on making sure “we’re following the rules”, instead of keeping people safe.
Great safety lies within human connection, it is that simple.” And that’s not from a movie, that’s from me…