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CHC Safety and Quality Summit Examines Building Safety at All Levels of an Organization

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

This year’s 14th annual CHC Safety and Quality Summit brought together nearly 500 aviation, oil and gas, insurance and safety professionals for another series of important conversations about improving safety across the aviation industry. This year’s theme was “Building Safety at Every Level” and began with a provocative discussion about whether safety is driven from the top of an organization down or built from the bottom up – or somewhere in-between.

Karl Fessenden, President and CEO of CHC Helicopter, opened the event with a presentation that looked at both sides of this issue. He recognized strong safety leadership examples across the industry, including Shell and BP’s supplier safety engagement programs and leadership from key organizations like HeliOffshore and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP). He also mentioned CHC’s Taking Care program, which is focused on promoting CHC’s strong safety culture. Taking Care reflects CHC’s belief and practice that leadership from the top is not enough – it’s essential to seek out and trust front line ideas.

The opening keynote was followed by plenary session presentations from Terry Mathis, Founder & CEO of ProAct Safety, Inc., and Graham Braithwaite, Professor and Director of Transport Systems at Cranfield University. Mathis looked at how the average safety program was created by management and handed off to the workers, but the key to buy in is early frontline involvement, as people are much more likely to support what they help create. Braithwaite spoke about how some warning signs are ignored or underestimated prior to an accident or incident and the importance of encouraging new employees to be proactive, apply a fresh outlook on potential hazards and to speak up early. These actions all lead to a stronger safety culture and minimized incidents.

After the opening events, delegates could choose from 80 breakout sessions on a variety of topics ranging from defining a Just Culture to the importance of Emotional Intelligence. Rather than recap these sessions, the CHC team decided to let attendees talk about their experience in their own words:

Eli Maloy, Director of Business Development for Longhorn Helicopters and first-time attendee states, “As a local operator and young aviator in the next generation of pilots, one of the biggest takeaways from the Summit is the ability to be in a small room and in a comfortable setting to talk one-on-one with experienced industry professionals who may live across the globe that I never would have access to otherwise.”

The Summit also focused on providing opportunities and recognition for students and female pilots through several scholarship programs. Each year, CHC Helicopter, with support from Dr. Scott Shappell and Dr. Doug Wiegmann of HFACS Inc., provide aviation students with the opportunity to submit application essays for consideration for the Peter Gardiner Grant, named in honor of Peter Gardiner, an early supporter of the CHC Safety & Quality Summit. This scholarship package included fully-funded travel and entrance to the Summit, as well as access to a two-day Human Factors course held around the main conference.

This year’s Peter Gardiner Grant winner was Lucca Carrasco Filippo, an Aeronautical Sciences student from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, studying at Unisul. In his application, Lucca stressed the importance of maintaining a just safety culture in an organization to help facilitate understanding behind human errors and accidents, noting that it takes a commitment from leadership to foster an environment where front line employees and management both can see human error as learning opportunities that can drive organizational growth and safety improvement.

When asked about the benefits of attending the CHC Safety & Quality Summit, Lucca noted: “If you like to learn [about aviation safety] and you like to improve, this is the place to do so.”

Sikorsky offered a similar opportunity for aviation students to be considered for the Sikorsky Safety Scholarship. Like the Peter Gardiner Grant, the Sikorsky Safety Scholarship provides the winning aviation student full transport, accommodation and entry to the Safety & Quality Summit, and access to the two-day HFACS course. This year’s winner was Adam Tetzlaff, an Aviation Technology student at Seneca College near Toronto. In Adam’s submission, he discussed the importance of an organization having a robust safety management system, explaining that management buy-in to a strong safety culture is essential to establishing a mutual trust between organizational leadership and lower level employees, ultimately leading to a mutual investment in continued safety.

CHC also partnered with Collective Magazine to award two members of Whirly-Girls International with scholarship packages that also included the conference attendance fee, flights, accommodations, meals and access to a two-day HFACS course.. The two winners, Melissa Hanthorn-Shantz and Samantha Hansen, are both active pilots and flight instructors who said they were eager to take their learnings from the conference back to their respective companies.

Hansen shared that “When [she] was applying for the scholarship, [she] was hoping to return home to [her] organization with a few new tips.” Instead, she learned that safety is much more multifaceted than the rudimentary absence of risk because it involves elements such as emotional intelligence, just culture, human risk factors and more. Hansen walked away “impressed with the academic knowledge of safety and safety management offered at the Summit.”

Finally, the Southern California Safety Institute raffled off a free certificate program training that was won during the event by Universal Helicopters. All of these efforts were meant to provide new opportunities and exposure to the importance of safety at all levels of the aviation industry. We are proud to help recognize these talented individuals and look forward to seeing more worthy candidates at future events.

The event also included a Gala Dinner headlined by Alison Levine, team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition. Levine has climbed to the summit of the highest peak on each of the seven continents and has skied across the Arctic Circle to the North Pole. Braving extreme challenges and hardships, she also became the first American to take the treacherous Messner route across west Antarctica, journeying 600 miles through the frozen landscape to the South Pole. More recently, she served as an adjunct professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, focusing on leadership in challenging and extreme environments. She tied her personal experience back to the importance of safety leadership in the face of numerous challenges throughout her many accomplishments.

At the end of the Summit, the audience had a chance to share their perspectives through a series of interactive polls for all delegates. They agreed that both senior leadership and frontline employees should own safety and both are required to drive it across any operation. The majority of delegates also believed the front lines are already generating safety ideas, but only half thought management consistently encouraged and supported these ideas.  Delegates also ranked culture as the biggest blocker to advancing safety, followed by money/resources and time.

We want to thank everyone who helped make the 2018 Summit a rousing success, including our generous sponsors, CHC employee ambassadors who volunteered their time supporting the event, all those who attended and even those who followed the event on our social media channels and interacted with us there. The 2019 Safety and Quality Summit is already scheduled back in Dallas at the Omni Hotel over October 1-3, 2019 and we look forward to another great series of discussion and participation from across the aviation industry!