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Today’s youth are raised with a heightened awareness of safety. They automatically fasten their seatbelts when driving a car, delegate a designated driver when drinking and know what not to carry aboard an aircraft when travelling. And it is today’s youth that can carry forth this safety mindset into industry to foster a safety culture of best practices in the workplace.


June 2, 2009
By Reana M. Selody Joubert

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Today’s youth are raised with a heightened awareness of safety. They automatically fasten their seatbelts when driving a car, delegate a designated driver when drinking and know what not to carry aboard an aircraft when travelling. And it is today’s youth that can carry forth this safety mindset into industry to foster a safety culture of best practices in the workplace.

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BCIT students will be incorporating their experience into their safety culture education.


Due to the vision of Sylvain Allard, CEO of Canadian Helicopter Corporation (CHC), for the past four years, CHC has hosted an annual Safety and Quality Summit. This year, the Summit took place in Vancouver, from March 30 to April 1, with the theme “Human Error Management in Aviation.” A group of 22 BCIT aviation students were given a golden opportunity to volunteer at this year’s Summit, attending world-class safety sessions in exchange for assisting the CHC staff. Thanks to CHC, these new generation safety practitioners had an experience that was invaluable.

Boasting an attendance of 527 delegates composed of aircraft manufacturers, civil aviation authorities, oil and gas companies and air carriers from over 25 countries, the Summit was a far cry from the first internal get-together five years ago with 45 international CHC Safety and Quality Managers. Then, the goal was to share knowledge and best practices within the organization. Now, it has become a popular venue where aviation professionals worldwide come to learn and share safety practices and expertise. Last year, I had the good fortune to attend as a delegate. I found it to be an incredibly valuable educational experience. This year, I viewed the Summit from a different perspective. As the primary safety instructor for the Aviation Operations Programs at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Aerospace Campus, I had the pleasure of working behind the scenes as a volunteer along with our 22 students; volunteer duties included guest services, way-finding, supplies management and speaker support.

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My job at BCIT is to further develop students’ understanding of safety principles and best practices in a work environment. Because of CHC’s generosity and foresight, these students received an added value to their education and a worthy notation for their resumés. The 2009 Summit theme of Human Error Management in Aviation was a timely focus for their studies in the Airport Operations and Airline and Flight Operations programs.

The tone of the Summit was established early by the keynote speaker, retired United Airlines Captain Al Haynes, who inspired many delegates and students alike with his account of lessons learned from his “against all odds" crash landing of Flight 232 at Sioux City. Internationally known presenters such as Drs. Doug Weigmann and Scott Shappell who explained human performance improvements and their Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS), Dr. Patrick Hudson (Safety Cultures), the Flight Safety Foundation’s Jim Burin (Approach and Landing Accident Reduction – ALAR) and Hooper Harris, FAA Aviation Safety (Aviation Accident Investigation – AI tools) joined other industry leaders in support of CHC’s mandate to promote aviation safety standards internationally. Shappell’s “Spin and Puke” was a favourite session among student pilots.

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Greg Wyght, Vice President, Safety & Quality,  CHC Helicopter (right), presents Marc Grégoire, Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Transport Canada, with an S92 model aircraft in CHC colours.   
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What gives this summit such high value is the “practical” information and approachability of the presenters. One can easily incorporate the new information into current safety practices. A senior manager at a major helicopter manufacturer was quoted as saying, “The CHC Safety Summit is the best safety venue I have ever attended!” I have to agree. While delegates will take Summit information back to their respective organizations and integrate the latest information into their safety programs, BCIT students will be incorporating their experience into their safety culture education. The student volunteers had a mix of Canadian and international backgrounds. While some students plan to work in Canada after they graduate, others will take their education and skills beyond North America. When asked why they chose BCIT’s aviation programs, students answer that it was not just the school’s reputation, but Canada’s reputation for setting a standard for safety worldwide, that brought them here. This is confirmed by our nation’s aviation accident statistics and its reputation as a forerunner in Safety Management Systems implementation.

The CHC Safety and Quality Summit’s international reach influences global aviation safety by offering access to world experts, thus enhancing safety cultures at a much higher level. BCIT readily promotes a solid understanding of a “good” safety culture and views it as paramount for future safety practitioners. Summit volunteer Mike Geaman, said, “I learned that mistakes happen but error management is key to landing safely. As student pilots at BCIT, we are being trained with a safety culture mindset from the beginning so we will be able to integrate better into the safety culture that companies are trying to teach ‘older’ pilots.”

Nurturing a “good” safety culture from a young age is vital to a safer industry. Volunteering and attending exceptional safety and quality summit sessions validates for students that safety academics and best practices go hand-in hand. These students are hitting the ground running when going into industry. They are aware of the importance of a “safe person in a safe environment” and will hold the industry to task to make it an even safer workplace. With CHC continuing to provide annual Safety and Quality Summits for those presently in industry and exposing the next generation of aviation professionals to the same knowledge as that of seasoned safety managers, they will bridge the gap between idealistic classroom theory and real-world practices.

So what does that mean to Canada’s aviation industry businesses? There can be an expectation that this younger generation will bring a strong understanding of safety principles, some that they have grown up with and some that they have learned along the way. It will also mean that they should be more easily trainable in aviation operations safety because their expectations will be higher than those of previous decades. Bottom line . . . if hired as the right fit, this younger generation should save the industry money in fewer incidents and accidents because they naturally function with a safety mindset.

Sylvain Allard and CHC have had a great impact on influencing aviation industry safety. Did Allard and the CHC achieve their goal of furthering aviation safety and raising standards with the 2009 Safety and Quality Summit? You bet they did . . . on many levels. From the BCIT student perspective, their experience was truly priceless!


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