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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

NASA: “Safety Depends on Culture”

“A positive safety culture begins with assuring dialog is open and decision-making is transparent.”

Those are the words of David Loyd as he addressed the recent Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) conference. Mr. Loyd is from the Johnson Space Center Safety and Test Operations, and his presentation was entitled “NASA’s Lessons from Loss: Managing Risk for Bold New Missions and Building on a Unique Safety Culture.” Loyd estimated that 75% of NASA’s mishaps were the result of human error.

He went on to say: “As much as we would like to error-proof our work environment, even the most automated and complex technical endeavors require human interaction and are vulnerable to human frailty.” He talked about the need to cultivate a strong safety culture that diminishes risk.”

“Lessons from Loss” was a haunting title, and Loyd spoke with great candor as he reviewed incidents that took the lives of astronauts and ground personnel, as well injured employees and destroyed incredibly expensive equipment. Even the events that appeared to be mechanical failures were the result of human error. He reviewed these incidents using NASA’s Safety Culture Model. That model has five sub-components:

Reporting Culture – We report our concerns.
Just Culture – We have a sense of fairness.
Flexible Culture – We change to meet new demands.
Learning Culture – We learn from our successes and mistakes.
Engaged Culture – Everyone does his or her part.

This model is followed both proactively and reactively as they review their accidents and losses. How about asking those questions at your next safety committee meeting? Does your staff report their concerns, is there a sense of fairness, and can the organization change to meet new demands?  Do your employees learn from their successes and mistakes, and is everyone engaged?

It was interesting that while we continue to look to technology to improve safety, the need to develop a culture of safety was a theme for multiple presentations at the PRIMA conference.

Another one of Mr. Loyd’s comments stuck with me: “It is not possible to perpetuate a safety culture in space without taking care of each other on the ground and at home.”

Here is a link to learn more about NASA’s safety culture:


                                     Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: Police Topics at LMC's Annual Conference

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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