A woman on a mission

posted on 17th March 2020
A woman on a mission

Described as “a strong-willed lady” known amongst the Kuala Lumpur International Airport community as “the anchor of safety” at AeroDarat Services (ADS), Shahfinaz Abd Wahid has played a key role in improving the handler’s safety record

Since she took over the helm of ADS’ Quality Assurance Safety and Security (QASS) department in September 2015, Wahid has spearheaded efforts to improve the working environment, turning safety into a culture for all staff to live and breathe whilst on duty.

In 2018, her pet project was to ensure that ADS obtain the ATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) certification. In order to do that, she worked to ensure that all necessary tools and facilities were assessed and, where they were lacking, procured. She also made sure that all processes were in line with the best industry standards. All that hard work paid off: ADS successfully obtained the certification in 2019.

Most importantly, Wahid made it her mission to ensure strict compliance at all times with standard operating procedures.

Under her guidance, QASS and other business units continue to work together to address any safety gaps, while simultaneously instilling safety behavior amongst ADS staff.

Beefing up safety awareness and changing the working culture of the company was by no means stress-free but Wahid “bulldozed forward and never looked back”. She has designed and developed safety programmes and coordinated safety activities to continuously promote, motivate and enhance staff safety awareness.

She began by appointing a safety anchor person in each business unit to ensure safety awareness is cascaded to all staff in a focused and consistent manner. She coordinated safety campaigns across all business units and collaborated with third-party establishments such as airport authorities, customer airlines and business partners or subcontractors.

Despite successfully meeting all her initial objectives, she did not stop there. Wahid is eager to work with other airport tenants, whether airlines or ground handlers, to address safety issues in a holistic manner.

Besides conducting monthly staff safety engagement sessions, where employees are given the opportunity to share and discuss safety issues and concerns, Wahid also got the management team involved. They began to visit operational areas, carrying out unscheduled walkabouts to show their commitment and support in improving the safety culture and staff welfare.

Wahid has also personally conducted numerous safety briefings and engagements as a platform to share her knowledge beyond educating ADS staff on safety and security matters.

Another practice that she has put in place is monthly safety action group meetings with all business units to review and assess the effectiveness of current safety performance, safety issues and quality lapses. The aim is to identify opportunities for improvement to ensure a safe working environment for staff.

Wahid has also enforced daily safety briefings by all duty managers and duty supervisors – including subcontractors – as part of the handler’s initiative to continuously promote and enhance staff’s safety awareness. It is mandatory for each subcontractor to keep her, as well as the QASS team, updated on the outcome of their daily briefings via a WhatsApp group as a way of monitoring and documenting evidence.

The establishment of a commitment to a ‘just culture’ approach – where staff are assured that reporting errors will not result in disciplinary or punitive action being taken against the reporter or other individuals involved – has encouraged staff to report any accident, incident or hazard to ground operations, identify safety hazards, expose safety deficiencies or raise safety concerns.

Besides improving attitudes to safety in the workplace, this has also provided opportunities for management to review any safety deficiencies that have been identified and, subsequently, to address these.

As a result of Wahid’s efforts, in 2019 ADS recorded a huge 91% reduction in ground accidents and incident occurrences (demonstrating conformance to standard operating procedures) and a 21% increase in the total number of safety reports, indicating a significant increase in safety awareness.

Mission accomplished? Not really – maintaining and improving safety is always a work in progress, and Wahid remains committed to the cause.

• AeroDarat is the ground handling sister company of Malaysia Airlines.