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Air Force Culture Assessment Survey Tool (AFCAST) program.

Squadron commanders have a new tool to help assess their unit's safety culture and its impact on operational readiness--the Air Force Culture Assessment Survey Tool (AFCAST). AFCAST is a web-based survey process ( that provides commanders rapid access to their unit members' perceptions regarding operational and safety-related issues.

In 2003, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) established a goal of reducing preventable accidents by 50 percent. SECDEF increased this goal to 75 percent in 2006. To support this effort, the Air Force has been aggressively implementing safety programs and tools.

The AFCAST program is one part of the Air Force Safety Center's overall safety assessment program. AFCAST is a proactive mishap prevention process that aids commanders and senior leadership in risk assessment and intervention strategy development. AFCAST focuses on operations, maintenance, and other areas directly related to flight safety. The AFCAST process involves collection of data from organizations by means of on-line survey measurement tools that quantify respondents' safety perceptions.

AFCAST tools are based upon High Reliability Organization (HRO) theory pioneered by Dr. Karleen Roberts from the University of California Berkeley. HRO theory discerns key attributes of organizations that operate in hazardous environments, yet have very low rates of accidents and incidents. Dr. Roberts studied several kinds of organizations, and identified air traffic control, nuclear power plants, and U.S. Navy aircraft carriers as examples of organizations that performed well as HROs. She believed these organizations have certain key characteristics in common, such as: sound safety management policies, standardized procedures, adequate resources and staffing, defined system for risk management, strong leadership styles, and other key factors.

While cultural factors are difficult to define in terms amenable to observation and measurement, researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, developed the Model of Organizational Safety Effectiveness (MOSE) that incorporated organizational climate and cultural aspects which underlie Naval Aviation values and norms.

AFCAST is the term used to collectively identify the tools developed to assess safety aspects of Air Force organizations. The MOSE model, originally developed for Naval Aviation, was expanded and used as the foundation for AFCAST. There are five surveys available: Flight Safety, Maintenance Safety, Private Motor Vehicle, Drinking and Driving, and Off Duty and Recreational Activity.

The Flight Safety Culture Survey assesses an organization's operational practices from an aircrew perspective. The Maintenance Safety Culture Survey assesses an organization's maintenance or support personnel operational practices. Both surveys document the perceptions of unit members to safely conduct operations in terms of: leadership, culture, standards, policies, procedures, and practices.

The three additional on-line surveys focus on individual and organizational attitudes and behaviors with respect to the organization's Private Motor Vehicle, Drinking and Driving, and Off Duty and Recreational Activity safety climate and support programs.

AFCAST provides squadron commanders with a means to survey their aircrew and maintenance personnel regarding safety issues, and receive real-time feedback on their attitudes and perceptions. This tool's key goal is identification and correction of subtle organizational conditions that increase mishap potential. Following survey completion, squadron commanders receive feedback concerning MAJ-COM climate, safety culture, resource availability, workload, progress of safety intervention programs, and other operational factors relating to safety. AFCAST helps squadron commanders identify safety concerns and hazards while highlighting where to focus their hazard assessment efforts. Commanders and their Safety Officers/NCOs can use this information to develop strategies, perform risk management decisions, and implement controls to better their organization's performance.

courtesy of Air Force Safety Center

The six MOSE Components are:

1 Process Auditing -- System of ongoing checks to monitor hazardous operations

2 Reward System and Safety Culture -- Expected compensation/disciplinary action for safe/unsafe behavior. Safety culture encompasses a system of shared beliefs, values, attitudes and norms that govern individual and group safety behavior. Safety climate is a "snapshot" of individual and group safety behaviors that are influenced by day-to-day events occurring within the organization

3 Quality -- Promotion of high-quality standards

4 Risk Management -- Systematic process used to identify hazards and control operational risk

5 Command and Control -- Policies/Procedures established/promoted by leadership

6 Communication/Functional Relation-ships -- Effectiveness of information transfer and quality of relationships with surrounding organizations

"If you score in the BOTTOM quartile for culture, you are in the TOP quartile for ACCIDENTS and INCIDENTS"

Three Questions:

1 What is your perception of your organizational safety culture?

2 How accurate is your perception?

3 How does your organizational safety culture affect your unit's operational readiness?

Why use AFCAST?

1 IT'S EASY -- simply set up the survey and direct your personnel to take it (takes about 5 minutes)

2 IT'S CHEAP -- website based with no charge to participate

3 IT HAS BACKSIDE SUPPORT -- once results are tabulated, there are professionals to help guide commanders to change negative cultures and reinforce positive ones

Commanders desiring AFCAST surveys should have their safety representative follow the SET-UP UNIT SURVEYS procedures listed on the AFCAST website ( or contact the survey administrators at: 1(888) 603-3170
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Combat Edge
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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