What Does “Intentionally Safe” Mean?


What does it mean to be “intentionally” safe? “Intentional” implies that you go beyond a basic level of safety because of an effort you are making. Safe means the mitigation of risk, which in aviation can be subjective based on the type of aircraft you operate, mission, environment, and an operation’s risk tolerance.

Being intentionally safe applies to both organizations and individuals. An intentionally safe organization is one that systematically learns from errors and adapts training programs, procedures, and polices – all of which have to be learned, adopted and applied by the individuals on the front line of an operation.

In my upcoming presentation at Safety Standdown USA, A Tale of Two Pilots, I delve into what intentionally safe looks like at an individual level. Like professionalism, there isn’t a well-defined measurement to earn the intentionally safe t-shirt. Being intentionally safe is not a static state that once you reach, no further effort is required. It’s an ongoing attitude and a chosen behavior.

The opportunity to take shortcuts is everywhere. Peer, time and mission pressures are just a few of thigs that tempt us to compromise safety. Why check the weather? We’re going anyway. I checked the NOTAMs yesterday. Why learn the new procedure? It’s just going to change again. It won’t happen to me today.

Intentional non-compliance and shortcuts can erode intentional safety. Shortcuts are popular because they normally are successful in saving time and getting the job done. Murphy is patient, and just waiting to apply his law when you drop your guard, for even a sliver of a second.

At Safety Standdown two years ago, Convergent Performance’s Dr. Tony Kern introduced his mythical creature, the Faldukish. He said we are all a hybrid of:

The real question he posed is not whether we are safe, but rather how we are evolving – accidentally or intentionally.
At Safety Standdown, I look forward the discussion about what intentionally safe means to you and your organization.


Dr. Dan Boedigheimer
Advanced Aircrew Academy
Twitter: @AircrewAcademy

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What If Your Own Story Changed The World?

Safety Standdown has a very simple but effective recipe to keep safety a top priority year-round: Learn. Apply. Share.

This three-prong approach is crucial for developing personal accountability. Doing each of those actions individually is helpful, but it’s the combination of Learning, Applying and Sharing, that elevates safety efforts to the next level of professionalism.

This concept is effective because experiences and stories stay stronger in the mind than informational statements because the context is visualized. You are more likely to remember a detailed story of a near-miss, rather than a statistic regarding degrees of error threats in various stages of the flight.

In line with our on-going theme of Attention Control Techniques, we challenge you to be conscious of when you are learning new material or skills, applying it for the first time, and then sharing it with your colleagues. You may be surprised at how often you do it in everyday life.

20 Years of Learning Applying Sharing 640x111

Professional experience makes us wiser through every challenge we overcome.  Take these experiences one step further and share them with your peers, who are likely to face similar issues.

Trending safety topics:

Those are just a few examples of human factors risks worth discussing. Now it’s your turn to start a conversation! Tell us what you learned, applied, and shared recently.

Share Your Story

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