Honorable Deborah Hersman, NTSB Board Member

Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman
National Transportation Safety Board
Closing Remarks
Safety Culture Forum
Washington, DC
September 10-11, 2013


I would like to again thank all the panelists who traveled from near and far to share their expertise, also the individuals who did not get to speak but have contributed resource materials to the docket. As interesting as this topic was - organizing it deserves mention too. Dr. Barry Strauch and Dr. Loren Groff have been visible players, as well as the other technical panel participants, Dr. Deb Bruce, Dr. Bob Beaton and Dr. Maryam Allahyar. We all know that in any operation, a tremendous amount of work goes on behind the scenes as well - that was done by Gena Evans, Barb Czech, Sharon Bryson, Peter Knudson, Deborah Hall, and Jenny Cheek. On behalf of the Board and the attendees, thank you to the entire team that made this a successful event.

We know that the safest ship would never leave port. But that ship wouldn't be in the business of transportation.

So what is the best way to motivate organizations that do not undergo tragic and transformational events? And as accident investigators - how do we evaluate safety culture?

In our work, the NTSB draws knowledge from tragedies to improve the safety of us all. Today, and yesterday, we have asked "how do we, collectively, do that better?"

I opened by saying safety culture was about doing the right thing...but almost immediately - the question was asked - what is the right thing? Over the past two days, we heard the perspectives of people who have studied the theory of safety culture and those that implement it on the front lines. Although their backgrounds were different, there were common threads that ran through most of those presentations - understand what people are thinking or feeling, adopt good practices, share experiences, demonstrate leadership and identify lessons learned.

In the final calculation, though, organizations are made up of humans. Individuals do not set out in the morning to get into an accident. They want to come home at the end of the day - so how do we - together - help organizations to encourage, enable and empower individuals to do the right thing?

We covered a lot of ground over the past two days and from the many hallway conversations, it appears to have been a worthwhile endeavor for the attendees and panelists. After hearing from 21 presenters, we know more and have more data - but like establishing a positive safety culture - unless we utilize this information for continuous improvement - the value of it will be diminished.

Calvin Coolidge said, "all growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work."

We began this forum talking about what has happened in the 16 years since we last met. I hope it won't be 16 years before we all meet again but I am certain many of you will do important work that will result in the growth and maturing of safety culture.

We stand adjourned.