Singapore Aviation Safety Forum 2023: Nurturing a Culture of Safety

  • 02 Sep 2023

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) recently hosted its annual Aviation Safety Forum, a pivotal event that attracted over 300 industry leaders, union representatives, and aviation professionals. The gathering, held on 30 August 2023, served as a platform to reflect on the Singapore aviation sector’s resilience and to chart a path forward for maintaining and enhancing safety standards.

Smooth Recovery and Global Recognition

Director-General of CAAS Mr Han Kok Juan, delivered the opening address, highlighting the sector’s remarkable recovery over the past year. He reported that air passenger volume at Singapore’s Changi Airport had reached approximately 90% of pre-COVID levels and was poised for a full recovery by the first half of 2024, if not earlier. Mr Han also underscored  Singapore’s stellar performance in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) Audit, where it secured an impressive Effective Implementation score of 99.7%. This score is the highest ever achieved by any State to date. (The current global average score for the USOAP audit stands at 68.9%.)

Notwithstanding this, and especially since approximately 20% of the aviation workforce was newly hired after the pandemic, there could be no let up to efforts to ensure aviation safety. 

Inaugural Singapore Aviation Sector Safety Culture Survey

CAAS also released findings from the inaugural Singapore Aviation Sector Safety Culture Survey,  the first sector-wide longitudinal safety culture survey dedicated to monitoring and enhancing aviation safety culture in Singapore. Conducted from March to April 2023, this groundbreaking survey was completed by nearly 4,000 personnel representing around 400 aviation companies including airlines, the aerodrome operator, ground handlers, maintenance organisations, design and production organisations, training organisations and freight forwarders.

The survey was developed based on a safety culture framework in collaboration with the Netherlands Aerospace Centre and tailored to suit Singapore’s unique operational context. It encompassed five safety culture dimensions: commitment, trust, communication, awareness, and improvement, as well as four socio-cultural factors: hierarchy, cohesion, control, and achievement.

Singapore Aviation Safety Culture Framework

Survey Results: A Positive Safety Culture

The survey results painted a positive picture of the safety culture within the Singapore aviation sector. Approximately 70% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with statements reflecting this positive culture:

(i) Commitment: Nearly 80% affirmed their commitment to prioritizing safety in decision-making and when faced with competing pressures.

(ii) Trust: Approximately 60% indicated trust in their colleagues, recognizing that safety motivates their actions.

(iii) Communication: Over 70% actively participated in reporting, alerting, and sharing safety information.

(iv) Awareness: Close to 80% expressed keen awareness of safety risks, both for themselves and others.

(v) Improvement: About 70% demonstrated a strong drive to continuously seek safety improvements, recognizing safety as a perpetual journey rather than a final destination.

Mr Han remarked, “The strong participation in the survey indicates a high level of attention to and ownership of safety matters amongst Singapore aviation companies and workers. We have done well overall – there is a strong positive aviation safety culture in Singapore. But we cannot rest on our laurels. Safety is always a work in progress. The inaugural safety culture survey provides a baseline to help us identify areas we can do better, to up the standards and keep ourselves on our toes.”

Next Steps: Strengthening Safety Culture

The inaugural survey sets a baseline for further enhancements. CAAS is now gearing up for focus group discussions with management and workers from key aviation companies to delve deeper into the findings and develop initiatives to fortify the safety culture. Two pivotal areas of focus will be:

(i) Trust Building: Strengthening trust between management and operational staff by clarifying acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, and fostering an environment where workers feel safe reporting unintentional mistakes without fear of reprisal.

(ii) Positive Safety Culture: Fostering a positive safety culture among all aviation workers, with specific attention to aircraft maintenance, a complex environment with Singapore-licensed aircraft maintenance engineers, and domains that have seen a surge in newcomers, now comprising over 20% of the aviation workforce.

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