Safety is fundamental to NATS and the air traffic management industry.
NATS manages some of the most complex airspace in the world and we have achieved excellent levels of safety performance. However, the ATM world is undergoing unprecedented change and a number of new challenges face our industry. New regulations and regulators, new products, services and technologies, the desire to reduce the environmental impact of air travel and a demand for further cost efficiencies could distract us from our commitment to safety. In particular, we need to ensure that our methods of safety management remain appropriate and continue to inform us of and alert us to our risks.
NATS takes safety seriously. To make sure that we do not lose sight of safety in the midst of all this change we decided to update our Safety Strategy, develop a comprehensive Safety Plan and so refocus our safety efforts.
When we started to develop the Safety Strategy we asked ourselves a number of questions. Foremost among those was: Will we be safe in future? We recognised that we cannot take safety for granted and just assume that the future will be safe. It will require hard work to make sure that it is safe.
We believe that our new safety strategy will act as a catalyst for a change in how we think about safety. The four themes of the NATS Safety Strategy recognise what we have done in the past and our current strengths but they also challenge us to think about safety in a different way.
The first theme of the strategy recognises that “People Create Safety” and that people are our strength not our weakness. Safety comes from individuals taking personal responsibility and ownership.
Our actions and behaviours reinforce the principles the company stands for. The capability of our leaders will be raised to strengthen our organisational culture and make sure we make the right decisions for safety.
We also recognise that safety is good business and our safety and business principles will become fully integrated.
Our safety performance is such that we must adopt new measures to understand how safe we are. We propose that we redefine safety to mean ‘as many things as possible go right’, not just ‘as few things as possible go wrong’. This is the key idea behind the “Safety Intelligence” theme.
The aim is to create methods which allow us to anticipate, predict and control safety in the operation by understanding everyday performance.
We will evolve our current safety management system so that it is more adaptable, progressive and fit for the challenges of the future.
We will develop our methods of providing safety assurance so that they are more “Tailored and Proportionate”. This third theme captures our desire to permit a variety of ways of providing the assurance we require rather than limiting us to a prescriptive approach.
This will allow us more flexibility to support our growth ambitions and to take advantage of safety assurance developed by our international partners.
The fourth theme of our strategy is “Challenging & Learning”. This theme recognises that NATS operates in a wider air traffic management world.
We are increasingly collaborating with others to address the risks to our business. We must continue to challenge others on the pace and rigour of risk mitigation actions.
The theme recognises that we need to foster a culture of challenge in the organisation to guard against complacency. We also recognise that we will become more of a learning organisation which anticipates the unexpected and which constantly challenges itself.
However, NATS cannot take on these challenges alone. As we developed the NATS Safety Strategy, we have always known that to deliver the change in safety thinking which we believe our industry needs, we would need to enlist the help of CANSO, our trade association, and our international partners. To that end, we worked closely with a number of experts and organisations as we developed the strategy and they have supported us in maturing the vision and ideas which it contains.
Our Safety Strategy for 2020 is available to download from the NATS website and I encourage you to take a look at it. I hope that you find it engaging and that it makes you think about safety in a different way and demonstrate how NATS will rise to the safety challenges which confront the air traffic management industry.
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