Proceed With Caution
Is over-specification of procedures a potential safety hazard?
BY RICK DARBY representing Flight Safety Foundation and AeroSafety World
A Never-Ending Story
Trapping Safety into Rules: How Desirable or Avoidable is Proceduralization?
Bieder, Corrine; Bourrier, Mathilde (editors). Farnham, Surrey, England and Burlington, Vermont, U.S: Ashgate, 2013. 300 pp. Figures, tables, references, index.
Trapping Safety into Rules — there is a title as provocative as you are likely to see this year in books aimed at aviation safety professionals.
No one needs a definition of rules. Bieder and Bourrier describe “proceduralization” as “firstly, the aim of defining precise and quantified safety objectives, and secondly, the aim of defining a process, describing and prescribing at the same time how to achieve such objectives.” Unfortunately, “these two aspects are usually not defined by the same entity. Some inconsistencies may even exist between the two types of procedures.”
Questioning the role of rules and proceduralization goes to the heart of commercial aviation, one of the most heavily rule-bound industries. Almost every aspect of the industry is covered by regulations (a subset of rules), standard operating procedures, standards and best practices. Accident investigation reports usually conclude with recommendations for new regulations and procedures.
The remarkable safety record of the industry is due in large part to effective procedures. They are the result of lessons learned from accidents and incidents, as well as research and predictive analysis.