Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than a Boeing 777, apart perhaps from Lorraine Kelly? One day she and I will enjoy porridge fortified nights of splendour in Dundee.

She has elegant lines despite being (unfairly) described as wide-bodied and what’s more the 777 has an enviable safety record with one accident in 18,000,000 hrs of operation and no loss of life. The 777 probably features several million components and

  • Flies at 35000 feet
  • Cruises at 560 mph
  • For 7,700 miles

All with complete reliability. And yet my bank can’t even issue a credit card without making a Horlicks of it. So how is this achieved? (The reliable aircraft not the warming hot drink).

Good design has got a lot to do with aircraft reliability and, sadly, this is largely based on learning from experience. The next component is build quality; modern aircraft are assembled to a spectacularly high standard.

Jet Aeroplane Landing from Bright Sunset Sky Blue Orange Horizon

How the aircraft is maintained and refuelled features next. By the way ‘misfuelling’ is one of the most common forms of vehicle breakdown these days but I’m guessing that when you shout “fill ‘er up Jacko” (no prizes for recognising this reference) at Terminal 5 there’s more to pumping 38,000 gallons aboard than just choosing ‘unleaded’ or ‘DERV’ and thinking about what you’ll be able to get with the Nectar points (a new house?).

The final element is of course how the aircraft is flown.

It’s easy to recognise that keeping an aircraft flying and not crashing relies heavily on what the educated call ‘human factors’ or behaviours if you like. The connection between people doing the right thing at the right time and product safety and reliability is just the same as people doing the right thing at the right time to avoid personal injury.

In some industries such as transport, food and pharmaceuticals the product safety imperative is stark but in other industries less so. However, poor quality can also affect business performance without injuries occurring – if the distribution of toppings on my pizza is uneven I will write to M&S (in green ink) and they will have words with the supplier who may lose the contract.

Product quality is an important factor in determining safer outcomes, but it also improves business performance. Because of these benefits you should think about including it in your safety culture change programme.

Meanwhile back to the porridge.