Lessons from aviation safety – keeping it fresh with hobbits

3 Jul 2015 | Health Quality & Safety Commission

This piece originally appeared in The Edge, a newsletter from the Horizons Group of NHS Improving Quality.

Passenger safety on commercial airlines has greatly improved, and there is much health can learn from the systems put in place to bring about this change. The World Health Organization surgical safety checklist is modelled on aviation’s checklists, designed to minimise human fallibility in complex environments.

But the checklist brings with it a conundrum: How do you embed something into everyday practice, but keep it fresh and interesting? To be effective, the checklist needs to be used properly. A clinician simply reading out the checklist is not proper use: it needs to be accompanied by and enhance teamwork and communication.

Can aviation also offer health some pointers on how to keep information fresh and engaging? Quite possibly; you only have to look to the extraordinarily innovative Air New Zealand and its in-flight safety videos. The airline has managed to make something routine and boring, but very important, not only fun and engaging, but a vehicle for selling seats and driving tourism.

Featuring the All Blacks, body painted cabin crew, Bear Grylls, Richard Simmons, Betty White, Sports Illustrated models, and quite a lot of hobbits, the videos are credited with greatly increasing views of in-flight safety briefings, not just on the aircraft, but also via YouTube. Collectively, the airline’s safety videos have been viewed more than 50 million times online.

Gillian Bohm, principal advisor quality improvement at the Health Quality & Safety Commission

Last updated 03/07/2015