State of Mind

From the top to the bottom, our tribal and feudal emotions and
traits prevail predominantly over our sense of responsibility,
compliance to regulations and observance of discipline.

By Adnan Mukhtar | September 2020

Safety is absence of an adverse outcome. Technology provides a certain outcome if the input conditions are according to design specifications that will generate the intended outcome. A variation in the input conditions may result in an outcome that is not acceptable. Machines have a fixed design and work within the performance parameters inherent in the design. Therefore, there is either a failure (breakdown of the machine) or success (normal working). Humans, as we understand them, do not work that way. Human performance varies based on the number of factors that have been studied in detail by psychologists, behaviourists, cognitive scientists, etc. The mental and physical limitations of human beings make them highly prone to errors and mistakes, slips and lapses, illusions and perceptions, forgetfulness and biases. Since machines are prone to failure and human performance variability may impinge on safe operations, one hundred percent safe operations cannot be guaranteed. This concept applies to the socio-technical environment (socio-technical habitat) i.e. environment where people interact with the machines in carrying out their job function, such as aviation, railways, shipping, road transportation, hospitals, factories, etc. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), for example, considers safety as:

“The state in which the risk to harm to a person or property is reduced to, and maintained at or below, an acceptable level through the continuing process of hazard identification and risk management.”
Terry L Mathis and Shawn M Galloway give a simple definition in Steps to Safety Performance Excellence:

“Safety is knowing what can hurt you, learning the things that can keep them from hurting you, and doing those things.”

These definitions vary from industry to industry and from country to country. However, a common thread that runs through these safety definitions across different industries accepts the non-viability of 100% safe operations. Humans have an ingrained need to be free from harm and strive to have an impediment-free environment. Organisations the world over implement a very strict safety regime to keep safety related issues to the minimum possible. This is not only to cater to the human need to be safe but is also considered essential for business progress and profitability. Occupational health and safety is an essential component of business today to ensure enhanced business productivity through eliminating work hazards and reducing work injuries and health issues.

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The writer worked for the Pakistan Air Force and retired as a Group Captain. He captains the B-777 for Qatar Airways and looks after the safety of its Boeing fleet. He holds a Masters degree in War and Strategic Studies and has completed numerous safety courses from IATA and ICAO. He can be reached at

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One thought on “State of Mind

  • September 11, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    Great write up. It’s high time the government takes safety of life as a priority and her own responsibility rather than the individuals. We need a cultural reform which can only come through soul awakening and collective public effort.