Back to all the safety as a way of life: our safety culture

Safety as a way of life: our safety culture

Safety as a way of life: our safety culture


Skyguide cannot afford to cover up errors: there is too much at stake. Rather, every problem it identifies serves as a basis for improvements. In their dealings with one another, our staff therefore nurture mutual trust and open exchange of information. It is this which forms the basis of a good safety culture.


Skyguide sees itself as a “High Reliability Organisation”; that is to say, an organisation which acknowledges that problems and faults can always occur. It develops the skills to prepare for, and react to, unexpected situations.



Together with our civil and military partners, we are continually improving our services. We:


  • We focus on problems and malfunctions
  • We reject simplistic interpretations
  • We place operating workflows centre stage
  • We strive for resilience
  • We respect specialist expertise



To be able to evaluate its safety culture, skyguide developed a new kind of internal survey, the “Safety Culture Survey”, which it conducted in 2006, 2009 and 2012. At the end of 2016, the first survey, based on a new procedure developed by Eurocontrol, was conducted, the results of which were analysed by experts from Eurocontrol, NATS and the London School of Economics. These surveys enable skyguide to identify areas in which it can build on its good results and work on certain weaknesses.


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A successful reporting system

The proportion of spontaneous reports filed on operational incidents has been very high for many years. In the case of automatically reported infringements of minimum separation distances, skyguide can request a report from the relevant air traffic controllers – even subsequently, thanks to a very progressive agreement on data transparency reached with the staff associations – and so is able to document 100 per cent of cases.


Our technical services also have a confidential reporting system for technical incidents that is specially tailored to their area of activity.


Skyguide’s reporting system is complemented by a general safety reporting whereby all personnel can confidentially report anything they observe that in their opinion constitutes a safety risk.


Skyguide awards a Safety Prize for particularly valuable contributions – regardless of the area and the role played by their author – with comments on individual cases and award recipients being followed with interest within the organisation.


A Just Culture

As has been proven, providing trust and adequate protection for all the individuals involved in aviation encourages them to adopt the best possible attitude and a constructive approach to errors.


Anyone at skyguide who, in their work, act to the best of their knowledge and belief, need have no fear of disciplinary proceedings arising from their actions and activities. And everyone is free to report any problem openly and fully – including errors of their own. On the other hand, skyguide does not tolerate gross negligence or wilfully harmful behaviour. These principles are formally enshrined in guidelines that apply to all personnel. The internal Safety Arbitration Committee is tasked with resolving any conflicts of interpretation that might arise.


Thanks to the Just Culture described above, skyguide now has an excellent reporting system. The reports the organisation receives on all observations provide it with well-documented findings that enable it to continually improve its air traffic management system. For this reason, a number of other sectors of industry for which safety is relevant are also interested in skyguide’s Just Culture and its implementation.


Just Culture at skyguide


Dealing with errors in the public eye is of course not always easy. The professional ethics approach to a Just Culture can at times be at odds with society’s moral expectations, or indeed with current law. Skyguide is aware of this, and strives to promote mutual understanding through regular dialogue with state prosecution services, the media, staff associations, etc. This means demonstrating the safety-relevant aspects of a Just Culture and bringing them into line with the imperative of the rule of law.


One of the aspects being evaluated as part of the international evaluation of air navigation organisations is the maturity level of their Just Culture, and in recent years skyguide’s has always been rated very highly. Further progress depends, amongst other things, on any developments at legislative level. This is because, from a legal point of view, there is an exception in Switzerland’s case in the way that it applies the international standard for the investigation of accidents and incidents in aviation (ICAO Convention, Annex 13). According to the Convention, statements from those involved may only be used to clarify the circumstances of the accident. In Switzerland, the law permits prosecution on the basis of such statements. For the sake of a Just Culture – and together with other actors within aviation – skyguide is pressing for the law to be changed in line with the Convention.


One of the aspects being evaluated as part of the international evaluation of air navigation organisations is the level of readiness of their Just Culture, and in recent years skyguide’s has always been rated very highly.


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