What Does “Intentionally Safe” Mean?  

By Dan Boedigheimer - April 17th, 2017

Dan Boedigheimer

What does it mean to be “intentionally” safe? “Intentional” implies that you go beyond a basic level of safety because of an effort you are making. Safe means the mitigation of risk, which in aviation can be subjective based on the type of aircraft you operate, mission, environment, and an operation’s risk tolerance.

Being intentionally safe applies to both organizations and individuals. An intentionally safe organization is one that systematically learns from errors and adapts training programs, procedures, and polices – all of which have to be learned, adopted and applied by the individuals on the front line of an operation.

In my upcoming presentation at Safety Standdown USA, A Tale of Two Pilots, I delve into what intentionally safe looks like at an individual level. Like professionalism, there isn’t a well-defined measurement to earn the intentionally safe t-shirt. Being intentionally safe is not a static state that once you reach, no further effort is required. It’s an ongoing attitude and a chosen behavior.

The opportunity to take shortcuts is everywhere. Peer, time and mission pressures are just a few of thigs that tempt us to compromise safety. Why check the weather? We’re going anyway. I checked the NOTAMs yesterday. Why learn the new procedure? It’s just going to change again. It won’t happen to me today.

Intentional non-compliance and shortcuts can erode intentional safety. Shortcuts are popular because they normally are successful in saving time and getting the job done. Murphy is patient, and just waiting to apply his law when you drop your guard, for even a sliver of a second.

At Safety Standdown two years ago, Convergent Performance’s Dr. Tony Kern introduced his mythical creature, the Faldukish. He said we are all a hybrid of:

  • a Falcon soaring toward our full potential,
  • a Duck floating on top of the water of compliance and effectiveness, and
  • a bottom feeding Catfish swimming in the brown water of substandard performance.

The real question he posed is not whether we are safe, but rather how we are evolving – accidentally or intentionally.
At Safety Standdown, I look forward the discussion about what intentionally safe means to you and your organization.