Roost Air’s Three Main Concerns
The government agencies and some of the companies I worked for in the past are famous for this, at least among the people on the inside. It’s always all about safety and safety first, until… it starts costing money. When that happens, we are still about safety, but we usually now become safer by writing more manuals and hire more safety guys, and not so much by updating equipment or fixing working conditions and schedules.
Also, there are certain aspects of certain jobs that are hard to mitigate by their inherit nature.
We used to jokingly say “Safety Third” on fires long before Mike Rowe made it famous on TV in the last couple of years. In fact, I got into trouble with numerous safety guys who lectured me about the realty (“their” reality) that safety “always” came first.
My argument was that, if safety came first, we wouldn’t a) be flying around in a helicopter to begin with, let alone b) flying it into a raging forest fire. These are the top reasons my life insurance rates are 200% higher than the rates for an airline pilot with the same amount of years and experience on the job.
Since we are doing these two things though, we can now, as our next and third step, fly the helicopter as safely into the fire as possible.
In my mind, this was a solid argument. But for some reason, it never went over that well…
As a fixed-wing pilot, for some reason, hearing a helicopter pilot speak about how the first step of safely flying helicopters is “[not to] be flying around in helicopters to begin with” sounds very funny. It also sounds like a win for the fixed-wing guys, so can we start cheering?
You also missed the ‘add more regulations’ part of safety-culture, though I don’t know how much of that is people trying to prove how safe they’ll be “if only there were more things in place codifying things that should be done/not done” and how much of that is because people can be stupid.
Safety Rule #1:
Do NOT allow the safety police to distract those doing the actual work.
Distracted workers are the main cause of workplace injury.
Curiously, Paul Krugman’s latest column is relevant here. Not to the funny, but…
The productivity of American workers took a big hit in the 70s. Why? It’s fair to claim it had something to do with the EPA and OSHA making everything from the air you breathe to the work site safer. And workplace deaths came waaaay down. So you can assert reasonably that safety standards and rules impeded productivity, but you need the whole story.
Great comments everyone!
Obviously, this is a big subject and everyone seems to be affected by it. I have so many more thoughts on this, but hat would have been my longest blog ever, bordering the size of a book if I wrote them all down.
But we should bring this up again in the near future. I also see lots of material for more comics in here as well, lol.
@Herveus: One of my favorite books “My time at Skunkworks” by Ben Rich talks about Lockheed dealing with the early stages of OSHA and that sort in the late 60’s early 70’s.
It’s kinda funny actually. OSHA wanted them to fuel the SR-71 outside citing safety concerns while Skunkworks was more like “What do you mean, ‘outside’? This plane doesn’t even exist! There’s no way we’re gonna push it outside to fuel it!” HAHAH
I’m paraphrasing, of course. But it made me giggle…..
As an aerospace safety engineer, I can say that “Safety First” just doesn’t make any sense. Safety is not “a thing” that you can even assess or evaluate on its own. It has so many facets and is so deeply intertwined with everything else that I could literally lecture on it for weeks. And I have.
Talking about accidents and what we can learn from them can be quite entertaining. In professional aviation, “Pilot Error” is almost always the effect, not the cause. Finding out what caused the pilot to make the mistake, and whether or not it’s a generic problem that could affect others, is the hard part. But it’s also the part that will help improve systems, designs and procedures and increase safety overall.
It is all in their faces. Fixed wing pilots tend to be happy relaxed souls with an optimistic smiling outlook, whereas helicopter pilots are a gloomy brooding lot, convinced that, even though their machine has not failed yet, something really bad is about to happen.