Safety Publications/Articles

Professionally Speaking

Sell Safety

I give presentations to some pretty big companies - Enron and Weyerhaeuser, for example - on the topic of safety. It's a hot topic right now, and therein lies an opportunity for flight training professionals.

In the business world, safety is being preached and practiced. People are getting used to it. They expect it. They aren't afraid to talk about it.

The business world is getting tough on safety. Just recently, I heard the head honcho of a big company tell the employees, "We will live by this safety program. It is mandatory, not voluntary. If you want to be on this team, this is what you're going to do."

More and more business managers are insisting on safety standards, and they are stressing that safety standards are by necessity standards of behavior, rather than of outcome.

Good safety standards require behavior that avoids accidents and exclude behavior that causes or allows accidents. In other words, we cannot enforce a standard that says thou shalt not suffer eye injuries on the job, but we can, will, and do enforce a standard that says thou shalt wear goggles while grinding.

Interesting fact: The employees are buying in. They like working for companies that demand high safety standards. They expect it. They see it as being for their benefit, and they see it as meaning that the company cares about them.

These employees, of course, are our customers and potential customers, and we need to treat them accordingly. We in aviation have been doing for decades those things that industry is now preaching, and we have the safety record to prove it. We need to brag about that.

As I've pointed out in this column before, for a long time we believed in the old mantra, "Safety doesn't sell." We had the safety standards, but we didn't brag about them lest the mere mention of safety bring up the idea of danger. I think our potential customers are now very safety conscious - and will become even more so - and we can benefit greatly from that change. Remember, that expression, "safety doesn't sell," was invented in Detroit, and Detroit learned better decades ago.

Safety does indeed sell, and it should sell better than ever in this world where industry is selling safety for us. Today's employees are trained to understand and appreciate safety standards. Now hear this: If you do not sell safety to your prospective students - from day one - they might well think it isn't important to you.

The flip side of this is great, of course. We will be working with students who are, in many cases, already sold on safety. Peer pressure will be working for us, rather than against us. Just be sure that you are on the right side of the trend and your student knows it.

People like to believe that their doctor is the best because their life is in his or her hands. The same goes for flight instructors. When I meet student pilots, I am amazed how often they explain to me why their CFI is the safest.

Let's harness that attitude. Let's sell safety, big time.

By Ralph Hood

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