Violations: Good, bad or something we don’t talk about?


I came across this excellent article Violations in a Positive Safety Culture which looked at whether it is a good idea to have violations, whatever they may be, in an aviation business model.

For those who think that violation is a rather direct term, it probably helps to define what is meant by it. A negative outcome of an event at the individual level (the diver or pilot) comes under two broad categories: errors and violations.  Errors are unintentional (cognitive failure), whereas violations are intentional (deliberate action).

Violations then fall under three broad categories:

  • Situational violations are committed in response to factors experienced in a specific operational circumstance, such as time pressure or high workload.
  • Routine violations are policy workarounds that become the normal way of doing business.
  • Organisationally induced violations occur when an organisation attempts to meet increased output demands by ignoring or stretching policy requirements.

Sport (recreational) divers are in an interesting position because there are no ‘rules’ to violate but there are considered ‘best practices’ such as plan the dive – dive the plan, knowing the MOD of a gas, returning with “50 bar on the surface”, dive with a buddy, always analyse your gas…but there is no-one to govern whether you follow those best practices.  However, if you are in a professional capacity, such as an instructor or dive master, then you have the HSE ACoPs to follow plus your own training agency’s guidelines, rules and procedures.

A question to ask yourself if you are breaking the rules to get the job done, why are you violating best practice? The link above makes the following statement:

Every organization has policy violations. They are simply a fact of life when people are involved. Violations can be an essential component in continuous safety improvement. Violations facilitate discovery of outdated or poorly designed policy.
It is not the existence of violations, or even the tolerance for violations, that define your safety culture. It is how you manage them.

‘Doing It Right’ divers have a reputation for having an overly prescriptive set of ‘rules’ which is perceived to mean there is limited flexibility when undertaking a dive.  However, it could be argued that because there are a set of rules and values, the ‘lines in the sand’ are known and it is easier to determine when violations occur and bad habits prevented from forming as a consequence.

However, ‘Doing It Right’ divers don’t have the monopoly on best practice or rules and if you are part of a regular team of divers, you will have no doubt developed your own set of ‘rules’. ‘Rules’ which you have developed to maximise efficiency at the same time as maintaining an acceptable level of safety. In effect the Efficiency Thoroughness Trade Off (ETTO). (<<Excellent presentation by the way!)

If you operate within a dive centre and you are asked to do something that you know is wrong, you have two choices – say something and maybe lose your job, do nothing and hope that nothing goes wrong. This can be easier if you are self-employed, but then you risk losing a client! There is an odds game to play, but if you play it too often, then you could get caught out and if you have not followed the guidelines, rules and procedures of your higher authority, you will be hung out to dry.

Rules, even social rules, are there for a reason. Create the environment where you can pick someone up for a violation, that way it won’t become the norm…if it does become the norm, you are playing the odds game…

3 responses to “Violations: Good, bad or something we don’t talk about?

  1. Pingback: Accident in Finland - Page 20 - CCR Explorers·

  2. Pingback: When Do You Step Up to the Plate? Evidence of a Lack of a Just Culture… | Cognitas Incident Research & Management·

  3. Pingback: “Diver Error”…Is it a Cop Out? | Cognitas Incident Research & Management·

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