There's a Sign!
Yesterday I wrote about the elements of Safety Culture. One of the easiest ways to identify if your organization has a positive safety culture is to ask employees if they are comfortable reporting safety related issues. If you hear employees speak of fear in reporting with comments such as, "I'm not saying anything, I need to keep my job", then the chances are your company may be lacking a positive reporting culture. Personally I think a reporting culture is one of the most important elements of a safety culture.
Without a reporting culture, supported by open communication, that encourages and rewards reporting safety related information and is free from retaliation, the opportunities to demonstrate flexibility will be non-existent, and there will be no opportunity to identify if the culture is just, informed, or provide areas for learning. Systems must be established that enable employees to report without fear of retaliation to support a positive safety culture.
I found the above photos on line. The statistics are appalling. During the final quarter of my doctoral course, I began researching elements of safety culture and associated retaliation. What I learned was nothing short of shocking:
I know of seven pilots, from multiple airlines, that have been pulled from flight status with a fitness for duty challenge due to mental health accusations in retaliation for reporting safety issues, and 24 additional pilots (I have yet to speak with) have been identified to be off duty for a similar reason. Airlines are using a mental health clause to retaliate against employees who have reported safety issues, and they can do it to anyone for any reason.
These pilots are being paid because the company thinks it is only illegal to fire an employee for reporting safety. But they are ordered to go through horrendous psychiatric evaluations, with questioning and interrogation that nobody should be exposed to. They are set aside for months at a time, isolated from their airline family, humiliated, kept from flying, not allowed to maintain currency in the simulator, haunted by nightmares of the fiasco, and many end up just quitting. Therefore, the company thinks they are not liable for unjustly firing them.
The fact that the Germanwings crash is being used in support of and justification for this retaliatory tactic is one of the most criminal things an organization could do. Not only does this methodology harm the psyche of the pilot, that will be carried with them for life, but it creates a stigma for pilots to self report if they needed help. If this is a punishment from a manager, why would anyone who really had a problem come fourth? They wouldn't.
Mental health problems are a disability, not a punishment. For anyone to mock the disabled, by using their illness as a tactic to punish an employee who is attempting to make their work environment better, should take careful consideration of what they are doing. Many pilots who are facing this retaliation think there is nothing they can do until they are fired, that's not true.
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