Under-reporting in aviation : an investigation of factors that affect reporting of safety concerns : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate of Philosophy in Aviation at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand
A substantial body of evidence suggests that reporting safety concerns and wrongdoing
could contribute to improving safety if diligently applied within organisations. A
number of aviation accidents suggest that the principles of reporting have not been
embraced by the aviation industry; for example, there is evidence that aviation incidents
are not always reported even when reporting is mandated by law. This thesis seeks to
uncover factors influencing individuals’ intentions to report safety concerns in aviation
and to whom such reports might be made.
A case study of a New Zealand based example of how under-reporting in aviation may
have contributed to the cause of a fatal accident was first presented as evidence of the
research problem. Subsequently, four empirical studies of participants working or
intending to work in the aviation industry were reported. The empirical findings
provided consistent evidence of six factors (seriousness of wrongdoing, direct or
indirect involvement in wrongdoing, working environment, legal protection of the
reporter, motive of the wrongdoer, and relationship to the wrongdoer) that may
influence both individuals’ perceptions of safety issues at the workplace, and their
intentions to report wrongdoing. Evidence was also found that when participants do act
upon being confronted with wrongdoing situations, they may not do so in a manner that
is fully consistent with improving aviation safety.
The implications of the empirical findings were discussed and a means of
communicating information about what to do when confronted with evidence of
wrongdoing in the aviation workplace was proposed.
In conclusion, there is confusion in the aviation workplace regarding what matters
should be reported to the regulatory authorities and to whom reports should be made.
Until such confusion is resolved, the notion that all aviation accidents are preventable is