Safety Culture and High-Reliability Organizations (HRO)



Meet Your Consultant

Dr. Bob Baron
TACG President/Chief Consultant
Full bio

Dr. Baron is available for aviation and all high-risk industries, including-

  • Aerospace/Sub-Orbital/Space Operations
  • Nuclear
  • Medical
  • Chemical
  • Maritime
  • Rail



TACG President and Chief Consultant Dr. Bob Baron has been involved in aviation since 1988, with extensive experience as a pilot, educator, and aviation safety advocate. Unlike some other "safety consultants," Dr. Baron has the time-tested qualifications and experience to assist aviation organizations on a global basis. This includes a Ph.D degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (the things safety culture and SMS are built on), as well as degrees in Aeronautical Science (Specializations in Human Factors and Aviation/Aerospace Safety Systems) and Professional Aeronautics (Minor in Aviation/Aerospace Safety).

As an Organizational Psychologist with extensive, practical experience in aviation, you can rest assured that you are making the right choice when selecting an organizational/change management consultant who can make demonstrable and measurable changes in your organization's safety culture.

It is important to understand that making paradigmatic culture changes can be very difficult, if not impossible, to do internally. The use of an external, objective, unbiased consultant is critical in the measurement and guidance needed to make demonstrable changes in an organization's safety culture.



  • Safety Culture presentations for conferences, symposia, safety stand-downs, etc.
  • Safety Culture Webinars
  • Safety Culture Assessments (scroll down)
  • Safety Culture Development
  • High-Reliability Organization (HRO) Consulting 
  • Organizational Coaching
  • Change Management





Safety Culture

"Safety culture can be defined as the enduring value and priority placed on worker and public safety by everyone in every group at every level of an organization. It refers to the extent to which individuals and groups will commit to personal responsibility for safety; act to preserve, enhance, and communicate safety concerns; strive to actively learn, adapt, and modify (both individual and organizational) behavior based on lessons learned from mistakes; and be rewarded in a manner consistent with these values" (Zhang, Wiegmann, von Thaden, Gunjan, & Mitchell).




High-Reliability Organization

"HRO describes a subset of hazardous organizations that enjoy a high level of safety over long periods of time. What distinguishes types of high-risk systems is the source of risk, whether it is the technical or social factors that the system must control, or whether the environment, itself, constantly changes. This latter can be controversial to observers as environments change within a range of expected extremes. It is the surprise of the change, its unexpected presentation that influences the level of reliability. The coupling between technology and people creates the socio-technical system" (Weick & Sutcliffe).

Four organizational characteristics of the HRO limit accidents or failures:

  • Prioritization of both safety and performance, and shared goals across the organization
  • A “culture” of reliability (or, better, attitude toward reliability) that simultaneously decentralizes and centralizes operations allowing authority decisions to migrate toward lower ranking members
  • A learning organization that uses “trial-and-error” learning to change for the better following accidents, incidents, and, most importantly, near misses
  • A strategy of redundancy beyond technology, but in behaviors such as one person stepping in when a task needs completion

An HRO is an organization that has succeeded in avoiding catastrophes in an environment where normal accidents can be expected due to risk factors and complexity.

There are Five Characteristics of an HRO:

  • Preoccupation with failure
  • Reluctance to simplify interpretations
  • Sensitivity to operations
  • Commitment to resilience
  • Deference to expertise



Just Culture

"A Just Culture promotes an atmosphere of trust in which people are encouraged (even rewarded) for providing essential safety-related information, but where a distinction is made between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. A Just Culture is a way of safety thinking that promotes a questioning attitude, is resistant to complacency, is committed to excellence, and fosters both personal accountability and corporate self-regulation in safety matters" (Reason).  

A Just Culture promotes safety by acknowledging "to err is human." Errors will always occur. However, some errors should not be addressed by retribution, when in fact the system itself might be flawed. However, a clear line must be drawn which differentiates between what is common everyday human error versus flagrant or willful violations that could, and should, be dealt with in a punitive manner.



Safety Culture Assessments

The Aviation Consulting Group provides safety culture assessments for organizations that wish to understand the current status of their safety culture. With our multi-pronged approach, we can unobtrusively drill down into your organizational culture to discover areas that could use improvement, as well as your safety strong points! Our methodology includes an online survey and an onsite visit.


Online Survey

We use our proprietary Safety Culture Assessment Tool (SCAT) as our online survey instrument, a very powerful tool that quantifies (and qualifies) employee attitudes towards safety culture. The SCAT measures an organization's culture on three scales; Corporate CultureSafety Culture, and Corporate Communication, and only requires 10-15 minutes to complete.

SCAT Benefits-

  • Can be conducted completely online 
  • Collects employee opinions and attitudes about safety culture, completely anonymously
  • No setup needed on client side. TACG handles the entire online survey process
  • Data collected are both quantitative (scaled responses) as well as qualitative (short textual narratives) to give a more complete picture


Onsite Visit

Our onsite visit allows us to gain an objective, real-time peek into your safety culture. We will be as unobtrusive as possible as we conduct observations and anonymous, informal interviews with personnel at various levels of the organizational hierarchy. 

Onsite Visit Benefits-

  • Real-time measurement of the organization's safety culture
  • Objective assessment by a neutral third-party
  • Not an audit and no judgment!
  • Can be conducted in conjunction with an SMS Gap Analysis

Analysis And Report

Once the data are collected, we then analyze the results and provide a comprehensive report of our findings, including recommendations and suggestions. All data collected are anonymous and maintained securely at our office.

It is important to keep in mind that a healthy safety culture is a pre-requisite for implementing and maintaining a truly effective Safety Management System. Therefore, we recommend conducting an initial safety culture assessment and then conducting follow-up assessments on a one or two-year basis. This ongoing process allows the organization to see what, if any, safety culture changes are occurring, and in which direction.


Fees And Options

The fee for our full safety culture assessment is based on company size, making it affordable for any size operation!

We also offer the option to uncouple the online survey from the onsite visit. We can conduct the online survey only--or--the onsite visit only. Although we recommend the coupled assessment for the most robust data gathering, we understand that some organizations may prefer to deploy just one method.



To request a quote