Health & Safety Is Not Just About Statistics. It’s About Impacting Lives.

Health & safety (H&S) is not just about statistics. It is about impacting lives. And depending on whether safety is a priority or not, it will have an impact  in a good or in a bad, sometimes even tragic way.

At the Airbus Germany Commercial Aircraft division we track H&S performance with KPI’s

Even if figures do not tell the whole story, you still need to measure your success to get better. But to really get to a safety culture and mindset where people get to see safety as a priority, one where everyone takes active ownership on doing the right thing even if no one is watching, you need to go deeper. People have to understand that health & safety at work, every incident that happens has a significant impact on lives, one way or the other and beyond the mere figures.

Therefore, we have realized that sharing information about incidents between colleagues has much more impact on people than just health and safety departments telling employees what to do. The person who has fallen from a certain height and talks about the impact of his injury not only on him but on his family, will make the point much better than any statistic. The person who had a bike accident and talks about what factors and own actions contributed to that will raise much more awareness than just the statistics.

As a professional we need KPI’s to measure progress, but as a leader we also need to tell stories and create emotions to change culture and mindset. And by the way, that also underlines that we want to learn from our incidents, that it is not about blaming, but about improving.

For Airbus, good occupational H&S management is not only a social consideration, it is an ethical and commercial imperative, and a critical compliance matter. Risk prevention actions and promotion of safe and healthy working conditions are key, not only to protect employees, but also to promote commercial sustainability. Keeping employees safe and healthy also has a direct positive impact on productivity, quality and engagement, thereby contributing to business competitiveness and the prosperity of society.

That’s why we go beyond the figures, that’s why stories and creating a mindset of safety are so important to us

Now, safety is one important part of a company culture, but let’s not forget about the other important part of that, which is health.

Now, why is health important? And I don’t mean why it is important on an individual level, I mean why is it important for a company? And what else might be important as well to drive performance, to attract talent?

In other words: What actually does make a good employee experience?

In summary, a satisfying experience and being engaged  at work is about culture and leadership. It is about social relations and communication. It is about more than just health & wellbeing initiatives, but a lot of those factors are actually also related to mental health and psycho-social risk.

According to CIPD, overall employee health and well-being is confirmed as being at the heart of job quality.

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It is particularly strongly related to job satisfaction and day-to-day enthusiasm for the job, but also has a clear relationship with intention to stay in the job.

Put simply, being well is working well

There may be a number of things that contribute to well-being, including other dimensions of job quality, but if policy-makers, employers, trade unions and employees themselves are to focus on one single dimension, there is a strong case for that being, well-being.

But what is the status of mental health in the workplace?

In regard to mental health and psycho-social risk at Airbus Germany Commercial Aircraft  we tackle the topic from different angles:

Assessing psycho-social risk is done with a scientifically evaluated survey of 41 questions in four areas (job content, organization of work, social relations and need for flexibility) related to risks due to:

  • quality of job tasks,
  • heavy workload,
  • issues amongst colleagues,
  • information issues,
  • disruptions at work,
  • lack of support from line managers,
  • job insecurity,
  • high level of mobility and
  • several combinations of those.

Based on a pilot with around 200 teams, survey results for those risks have been identified that indicate threshold values with a significant risk for the team with 75% or more probability. For those teams there are defined, sets of measures depending on the type of risks that have to be worked and are also tracked by site specific risk management teams involving H&S, HR and works council.

Importantly: Accountability for mitigation measures stays with the supervisor

Several H&S trainings are mandatory for all supervisors including H&S duties for supervisors, handling addictions/ A&D issues at work as well as health-focused leadership. We know that leadership is one important factor to influence emotional health, presenteeism as well as absenteeism. So enabling leaders is another key for a healthy workforce.

We offer a large portfolio of health promotion for leaders, individuals and teams that can be customized to the needs of a specific team or unit with health consultants supporting a manager in regard to the best strategy for her or his team.

For issues that manifest as mental health cases, we offer a large range of clinical pathways, starting with easy access to psychological counseling up to voluntary integration management even before the legal threshold for long-term absence.

What is our success?

  • In 2018 almost 80% of supervisors took the opportunity to plan measures for their team on a voluntary basis.
  • Our long-term absences (>42 days) are about 50% lower than long-term absences in a comparable external population.
  • We have experienced less cases as well as less days per case in regard to mental health compared to the national health insurance benchmark.

Summary and key messages

  • A sustainable safety culture needs stories. H&S is not just about figures, but about impacting lives and ways of working.
  • Health & well-being are essential for a great employee experience.
  • Mental health should be one focus area beyond legal compliance and mere risk mitigation.


Dr. Kai Hass is Global Head of Occupational Health & Wellbeing, Airbus 

Since March 2018 Kai is the lead physician for Airbus Operations in Germany. He also is now leading the trans-national expert group for occupational health of Airbus. Before returning to Germany (and back to the aviation industry where he actually started his OH career years ago) he worked in Switzerland in the pharmaceutical industry. As an occupational health expert he developed and implemented the current global Occupational Health strategy for Novartis. He also led a global project there on integrated health management in collaboration with HR and D&I, linking health management to company culture and leadership. During his career Kai held multinational health management positions in the energy/ oil & gas industry, leading diverse and virtual teams in several European countries. Kai studied human medicine and started his medical career in cardiology and emergency medicine. He is a qualified specialist for Occupational Health and holds an economic degree in strategic marketing.



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