How ‘Sticky’ is Your Safety Software?

How ‘Sticky’ is Your Safety Software?

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Organisations are increasingly investing in software to support their Safety Management Systems. This might be in individual applications for managing safety reports, audits, risk assessments etc or integrated products. The use of software to manage large quantities of data is obvious. As was said about one system, developed by British Airways in the early 1990s:

The strength of BASIS lies not in the storing of information, but in using it to ask questions about the operation and to provide some answers……a practical probing into all the available data with the intention of uncovering the unknown and undesirable.  (The Basis for Safety Management, M Holtom, Focus Nov 1991, UKFSC)

Another great premise of such software is that it increases workforce reporting. Certainly the ability for individuals to enter safety reports on-line increases reporting (in one case we are very familiar with, more than doubling the frequency of reports in three years). However we know other cases were similar increases have been achieved by dogged perseverance, trust building and promotion by the safety team.


  • Quantity is not a substitute for quality of safety reports
  • A report raised is not the same as a safety lesson shared.

This is where software design and user interface are key…

But is your safety software addictive or just plain dull?

2013 study reported that smartphone users check Facebook 14 times per day on average, spending 32 minutes a day on the site (by 2016 this had increased to 50 minutes). A 2014 study stated that 70% of all Facebook users viewed the site every day and 87% at least weekly. LinkedIn scored a more modest 13 and 38% respectively (with an average usage of 2 minutes per day in 2016).

Social media growth coincided with the widespread availability of smartphones. The average user in a 2016 study interacted with (i.e. touched, selected or swiped) their smartphone 2617 times everyday in 145 minutes of use.

2013 study determined that 36% of Facebook users felt people shared too muchinformation about themselves which contrast with the common expectation of under reporting of safety issues.

Ciarán McMahon has considered the psychology behind social media in a fascinating 2015 article in The Psychologist.

It would be wildly optimistic to expect your safety software to be as ‘sticky’ and addictive. However, to be frank most safety software is purely transactional with a user interface as uninspiring as on-line banking!

Safety software is often seen as a chore to use and for most users these systems are just sponges that soak up their input with little response or sense of community. Relatively few users tend to have access rights to let them ‘wring out’ the data (generally due to confidentiality concerns).

There is rarely an easy way to share relevant information with peers (sharing being centrally controlled by management or safety specialists) or to ‘like‘, share and encourage the contributions of others (a key feature of social media).

As one blog notes “social media can be a way of gaining virtual empathy”.  Another study showed 49% of participants said that they shared “to inform other people about what they care about or to affect new opinions or encourage action”.  A massive 84% shared to support a cause (and is safety not a worthwhile cause?).

McMahon adds:

In a holistic sense, the popularity of social media has been driven by how user-friendly and interactive it has made modern cyberspace.

So what is the way forward?

We are not suggesting safety software should be replaced by social media, but for all of the background technical advances, the ability to access from multiple devices and added functionality, so many safety software products still have the same fundamentals as 1990s products. Specialist safety apps are increasingly available (for pre-flight risk assessments, fatigue monitoring, tracking lone workers etc) but these are generally focused on limited safety tasks.

Software vendors need to remember they are selling products intended to turn safety data into analysed safety intelligence and shared insight.  Scientific data on user interactions and behaviour is noticeably absent in vendor marketing material.

We do wonder what Safety Software by Mark Zuckerberg would look like!

Companies like Facebook use sophisticated user analysis software to target advertising at users. Perhaps the next generation of safety software should target uses with tailored safety lessons and information relevant to them and the risks they face and enable more peer to peer discussion of safety. Perhaps a Snapchat style time expiring feature would allow quick alerts and feedback direct to employees’ smart phones without the fear it will end up on the local news. While a little gimmicky, perhaps some gamification approaches could be a nudge for sharing and learning from safety reports.

Note: This is an update of an article originally published on LinkedIn by Aerossurance’s Andy Evans.

Aerossurance has extensive air safety, operations, airworthiness, human factors, aviation regulation and safety analysis experience.  For practical aviation advice you can trust, contact us at: