It may be months before the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) releases its findings into the fatal plane crash of a Boeing 777 at San Francisco airport. But even now, in the initial days after the crash, there are lessons workers in any industry can take from the ongoing investigation.
Here are 7 potential topics for an upcoming safety meeting based on the NTSB investigation:
- Encountering new situations. While the NTSB isn’t ready to point the finger at the Asiana airline crew, it’s known that even though the pilot of the plane was experienced, with about 10,000 hours of flight time, he had only 43 hours of flight time on Boeing 777s and this was his first landing with this particular type of plane at the SF airport. Point for discussion: What do you do when you’re working with new equipment or facing a particular situation for the first time? Does it make any difference whether a worker has years of other work experience when it comes to performing a task that’s new to them?
- Responding to warning signs. The NTSB says four seconds before impact, a control sent a warning to the pilot that indicated the plane was about to stall. Just 1.5 seconds before impact, a crew member called out to abort the landing. Point for discussion: What are the warning signals workers have to look out for at their jobs? Do they know how to respond to them quickly to avert injuries?
- Handling injuries. Reports say 182 people were injured in the plane crash. The chief of trauma surgery at San Francisco General Hospital said, “We are used to these types of trauma, just not used to seeing them all at once.” Point for discussion: Do workers know what to do if there are injuries? Has your company notified local first responders about the potential types of injuries they might encounter in the event of an incident at your company?
- Getting the full story. The NTSB says with dozens of witnesses, including several other airline pilots awaiting takeoff, the cause of the Flight 214 crash should be easier to resolve than other air disasters. There was also another team of two pilots on board the aircraft at the time, since two teams of pilots take turns on the long trans-Atlantic flights. Point for discussion: Eyewitness interviews are crucial for investigations. Interview not only people who were involved, but anybody who might have seen anything.
- Reviewing training. The NTSB will look at how the flight crew was trained. Point for discussion: If there’s a serious injury at your facility, will the investigation look into the safety training of the people involved in the incident?
- Eliminating distractions. In an interview with CNN, Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said video and other data suggest the crew “lost situational awareness” while approaching the airport. Point for discussion: How could distractions affect employees’ safety at your workplace?
- Leaving no stone unturned. The head of the NTSB told CNN that investigators rarely find a single cause for what went wrong. “In most of our investigations, we find that it’s not just one thing,” said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman. “It really is a combination of factors that leads to an accident.” Another factor in this case may have been work to extend a runway safety area. That work required temporary shutdown of a system designed to help pilots land planes safely. Point for discussion: How do you make sure that an incident investigation is thorough? How might you identify temporary conditions that may have contributed to the incident?
An added note: CNN has video of the moment of impact of the crash that you can also use before kicking off discussion at your safety meeting.