Never Stop Learning

Submitted by Josh Weiland, Safety Officer, Sanford Health Air Transport

Those who work and operate in the safety management arena typically face the same hurdles when it comes to educating team members. Some team members live by “this is how we’ve always done it” while others believe their “years of experience” removes the chance that mistakes or bad decisions will occur. There is some truth that knowledge gained over the lifespan of a career does provide benefits, but we are humans, and human error does not consult with experience levels before striking. Nor does poor decision-making. The antidote? Continuous education.

Education in the safety realm is a constant evolution, building off the last session or event while including the next item. Drift is always a present form of risk and over time becomes less noticeable as both the team member and the organization can shift away from what was once normal operations. Speaking of risk, the departure from a standard operating procedure (SOP) or use of an undocumented procedure presents the greatest danger. In both examples, drift is occurring by performing what may seem easiest at that moment and then bending the mental model to fit the current situation. During each flight shift, we should live and operate in a learning environment where the focus is lifting each other up for the good work done, but also reinforcing the absolute need to “stick to the script.”

The air medical industry is a complex and dynamic field with many moving parts and when combined with error or poor decisions, the birth of an accident chain is around the next corner. In an active safety culture, we empower each other to be the solutions to problems by participating in the safety program we represent. Taken further, all of us have a shared responsibility in the outcome of a transport. This means we cannot assume the person next to us sees the wires or the obstacle on the runway. Instead, we must challenge the assumption and speak up. Incomplete communication will result in withheld information, ideas or questions and lead teams in the wrong direction. We work in an environment that requires the establishment of clearly defined goals while including team input when situations change.

John C. Maxwell said, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.”

He is spot on; our success is built upon all of us (in synergy) working towards an identical goal – a safe transport.


Josh Weiland is the Safety Officer for Sanford AirMed, a CAMTS accredited, hospital-based flight program which flies EC145’s and King Air 200’s.  Josh maintains certifications of Airline Transport Pilot, Certified Flight Instructor, MTSP-C of the Safety Management Training Academy as well as recently completing the Crew Resource Management Instructor course.  Josh’s passions include promoting a proactive Safety Management System that focuses on error detection and reporting with a strong safety culture and improvement as the main goals. He is also passionate about being a voice in the world of safety on the behalf of past, present and future flight team members.