• Kate Johnpeer

Spotlight on the Standdown


Has your organization encountered an accident, incident, or an event where those involved came too close to experiencing an accident or incident? Once the dust settled, how did the organization respond?


If your organization stopped what they were doing, got everybody together to focus on the event (or near event), this after-the-fact meeting is a Safety Standdown. Those responsible probably sat tight with their tails between their legs while others present were happy they were not the responsible party…this time.


If the standdown was reactive to a safety event, it was likely a negative conversation. Or, if you were fortunate, the standdown may have gone deeper to disclose the foundational elements that contributed to the problem.


For example, did the standdown focus on the unstabilized approaches identified through FOQA data or did it focus on the lack of familiarity with unstable approach criteria and the fatigue experienced by the crew? When addressing safety matters it is essential to address a problem’s root cause, to think “high level,” and to put the spotlight on what can be done to keep a similar incidence from happening in the future.


Organizations must fully investigate safety reports, incidents, and accidents. It follows that they must also respond to all findings. If a reactive standdown is held after an event, those in leadership must handle them with care while seeking to directly address the root cause that led to the incident.


It is necessary for organizations to fully address safety issues, to never overlook the safety events that have occurred, and to make every effort to avoid future recurrence. At the same time, it is essential also to “grandstand” the ways that folks within your organization are actively engaged in safety promotion. To best promote good behaviors, it is essential to provide praise and recognition when it is due. Praise is far more powerful than punishment. Test this with your coworkers, your children, and even your pets!


Organizations need to recognize good choices and highlight how individuals demonstrate safety principles and implement safety systems within the organization. The current level of safety in the aviation industry is a direct result of good choices that are made by individuals and the safety systems that have been implemented.


So, can Safety Standdowns be helpful? You bet. Organizations should have safety meetings or standdowns on a regular basis. These can allow organizations to look at common threads expressed in safety reports and examine how alterations can be made in a system’s perspective, policy, or procedure.


Organizational safety promotion can play a big role in keeping flight operations safe, but organizational efforts are only effective to a point. Safety happens on an individual level. When you start your day, it is important to think:

  • How can I do it better today?

  • How can I do it safer today?

  • What are the hazards I see and deal with, but maybe haven’t spoken up about?

Commit to speaking up when you see something that warrants attention or action on behalf of your organization.


When you see that your perspectives and voice can change your organization in a positive way, you’ll see renewed meaning and purpose in your role. Your input can help you and those you work with go home safely at night.


While reflecting on accidents, incidents, and near misses by examining the fundamental elements causing them, leaders can also highlight the safety efforts of personnel involved. With these deliberate steps, organizations will truly be able to breathe new life into Safety Standdowns.