Inspiring sign

Flying for a living my fellow helicopter pilots within the company and I are (mostly) willing participants in numerous Safety Management Programs through the company and the agencies we work for. Some are better than others. But as a joke we changed the old slogan “Safety First” to “Safety Third” amongst ourselves. The reason for this logic was that if safety was truly first for an individual, he or she would not

1. Be in a helicopter in the first place and

2. Flying said helicopter into a raging forest fire

Ergo, safety would have to come third and obviously above else, just ignoring those other two facts. Now, before you tell me that safety should always come first and tell me the whole reasoning why, I can tell you we have already been in trouble for this theory on numerous occasions.

However, I do believe it takes a certain “special” (adventurous? Or dumb maybe?) person to look at a helicopter and think “Yeah! I’d love to fly that! How hard can it be?” where a more natural reaction to looking at all these spinning parts should be to walk in the other direction. Then, we train this adventurous, risk embracing individual and turn him or her into a helicopter pilot. And from the second they have their ticket; we now try to make them as safe as possible for the rest of their career …

There is some irony in this whole thing you would have to admit.

Luckily, the majority of aircraft operators are able to go more than 8 days without an accident on regular bases. Maybe because of their safety management.


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2 comments on “Inspiring sign
  1. JP Kalishek says:

    The Rocket City Rednecks and Doc Taylor were noted for their “Safety Third” and played it off as Rule #1 is Always refer to Rule #3.
    Rule #2 is when in doubt, See Rule #1, and Rule #3 is of course Safety! so Safety Third

  2. Bernd says:

    When actually working to make things (or operations) safe, “Safety First” is not a useful guiding principle if you actually want to achieve something. The point is more to reduce risk to an acceptable level while maintaining the ability to operate.

    It is a balance between how important the operation is, what risk one is willing to accept for oneself and for others, and what the cost would be for improving safety even further.

    The ALARP principle (reducing risk “as low as reasonably practicable”) is somewhat more useful, but that also leaves a lot of room for evaluation and interpretation.

    Two extreme ends are commercial aviation (extremely safe, target is at most one accident per billion flight hours; we are not quite there), and crewed spaceflight (very risky, more on the order of one accident in 100 flights).

    (Full disclosure: I am a safety engineer in aerospace.)

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