Tuesday, February 12, 2013


"It’s important not to define safety as the absence of accidents." - Captain "Sully" Sullenberger
(Found this RyanAir infograph
hilarious in 2006; I forget why)

We are still technically on hiatus, but an article in the Times this morning tempted me to write a few quick sentences.  Citing data from the Aviation Safety Network, the article reports that flying in airplanes has literally never been safer.  The US has not had a fatal plane crash in 4 years.  And the risk in death for passengers in the US is now 1 in 45 million.  How do you like them apples?

Medical quality and safety, which I had just begun discussing as a public health problem a few weeks ago, is often compared to aviation safety.  Both professions require a combination of human skill and maneuvering of ever-changing technology.  Protocols and "acts of God" matter for both.  And in both industries, lives are at stake.  Lots of them.  This article is remarkable not only for illustrating what can be done when an industry is committed to reducing accidents and how to do it-- 

After another series of accidents in 1996, federal officials set a goal of cutting accident rates by 80 percent over 10 years. ... Since then, the F.A.A., airlines and pilot groups have stepped up efforts to share safety concerns through a series of voluntary programs. Airlines agreed to participate after obtaining assurances that the information would not be used to discipline them.  -- Jad Mouawad and Christopher Drew for the Times

--but also how much more is to be done.  As Captain Sully's quote above illustrates, this report should be an encouragement for public health rather than a reason for complacency.  Shirley Surely, there are miles to go before we sleep.

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