An aviation safety risk model to close the gap between management and operational safety staff

Grade da Encarnação, J., 2020. An aviation safety risk model to close the gap between management and operational safety staff. DBA, Nottingham Trent University.

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The thesis probes the safety risk-management component of the complex Commercial Air Transport (CAT) industry. It argues that adoption of the ICAO (2018b) framework failed to address the challenges the industry faces, and suggests that the continuous reduction of risk exposure observed in the last couple of decades has been negatively impacted as a result.

The document begins by outlining a conceptual framework based on a continuous cycle – safety boundaries, risk tools, safety protection, safety benchmarking, and safety culture – that represents a theoretical safety model as an alternative to the current risk-management vision. The research into these topics is based on an interpretivist stance, whereby 26 semi-structured interviews were performed across different segments within the CAT industry. The healthcare sector was also included in the research to enable benchmarking analysis.

Opposed to the commonly established knowledge, the thesis argues that the industry defines and measures the acceptable risk exposure of each organization in a degraded fashion and, in doing this, restricts individual airlines’ contributions to industry safety figures. The literature around the subject restricts its research scope to specific topics and fails to address risk management holistically. Compounding the narrowness of the scope, safety-related linear risk models have failed to integrate concurrent events with undesirable states. In contrast, the models based on complexity and systems thinking theory develop a higher conceptual abstraction, but present challenges when airlines try to implement them. It is suggested that in failing to harness the explanatory power provided by clues concerning safety, an exposure uncertainty is developed, which, as this has the potential to produce a gap between management and operational staff, creates a barrier to investments in safety. Moreover, while the extant research and literature identifies safety culture as an important factor in the robustness of commercial aviation risk management, its explanatory power is weak – models fail to explain their impact on safety performance – that is, they fail in terms of operationalizing the concept.

As a significant innovative approach to practice and consequently to the theory that supports it, the current research suggests a new risk model that transforms statistical data into meaningful and easily understandable safety figures. In contrast, the risk model put forward here conveys a proactive perspective when dealing with risk exposure and the drifting of safety systems.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Grade da Encarnação, J.
Date: September 2020
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed in the first instance to the author by email:
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 29 Jun 2022 07:40
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2022 07:40

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