The aviation industry is a critical sub-sector of every economy the world over. We rely on the aviation industry not only for transportation of people – both for business and pleasure but also for transit of cargo. The aviation industry is a major clog in the drivers of every economy and as such any variable affecting aviation affects our economies significantly.Security during flights and in the aviation industry in general covering airports and related facilities is critical. The world security concerns have been further heightened by terrorism and this has indeed been a headache for players in the aviation industry. Pilots, flight attendants, airport security teams and other ground crew are always alert to these security concerns.In almost all cases the security issues in the aviation industry would have fatal consequences if not prevented and thus the reason security is such a major concern to industry players. Although security has always been a major consideration in flights, the 9/11 attacks on US airspace was a major wake up call for stakeholders. It really changed the general approach to flight safety and aviation security as a whole.The players in the aviation industry have been forced to look at new and innovative ways of ensuring passenger safety. Yet flight security has to be carefully enforced so as not to be too intrusive on privacy and passengers’ dignity is not infringed. The issue of flight security therefore becomes a delicate balance for industry players who want to maintain excellent customer service as well as world-class security for their passengers.In a bid to keep ahead of terrorists and other threats to security, the aviation players have instituted many changes to their security systems. For instance the world over there is a noticeable increase in presence of security personnel in airports. Further the airlines are today working more closely with airport security to ensure that flight security is not compromised. In addition to this passenger screening has become more comprehensive and now involves the use of technologically advanced systems and gadgets.With increasing concerns some airlines are taking more radical route to try to ensure flight safety. Some have gone as far as arming some of their pilots and having armored cockpit access doors. The merits and demerits of such drastic measures are subject of heated debate. However these are all pointers to how aviation security is a critical importance.The media coverage that follows any mishap in the aviation industry coupled with the subsequent panic of commuters makes the aviation industry very attractive to terrorists and other saboteurs. Although the overall impact of such action is to the aviation industry is not necessarily a decline in commuters, the initial publicity and trauma to both airline staff and passengers works well for the terrorist.Now what industry players need to get right is the balance between ensuring that passenger rights and dignity is respected and yet have thorough pre-flight screening. This of course is no mean task with saboteurs being creative and civil rights groups opposing most of the security measures put in place to screen passengers.
Industrial disasters can be devastating. Many of us think ‘we’ve all gone Health & Safety mad!’, but it doesn’t take long to find a multitude of situations where people have lost lives due to lack of Health & Safety precautions being in place in industry.So what constitutes an industrial disaster?An industrial disaster can be caused accidentally, through negligence, or through incompetence. There doesn’t always have to be fault, but as we become more Health & Safety aware, it’s more common for someone, or a group, to have to face accusations after a disaster. If there are high levels of damage, or injury caused, or loss of life, and the cause is related to the business of an industrial organisation, then the tragedy would be referred to as an industrial disaster. Prior to the industrial revolution of the 18th Century, there were not the same levels of disaster other than from causes of nature.Let’s take a look at some of the worst industrial disasters through time, and the gravity of the consequences of each.Silo Explosion – Oppau, Germany, September 1921. A plant which had been producing ammonium sulphate prior to WW1, had to start producing ammonium nitrate, as it could be made without imported sulphur. Both types were stacked in a silo, which then turned into a plaster like substance under its own weight. Workers couldn’t get at the mixture to break it up with pick axes for danger of being buried under the collapsing weight. In order to break up the mixture, the workers used some dynamite charges.The explosive nature of ammonium nitrate was well known, but this procedure was in fact a common one in the industry. Despite a similarly caused disaster occurring in Germany 2 months earlier, the warning wasn’t heeded and the practice continued. At Oppau, the scale of devastation was so bad that 300km away in Munich a loud bang was heard, 30km away traffic had to stop from so much shattered glass, and a pressure wave tore roofs off house up to 25km away. In the town 80% of homes were destroyed leaving 6,500 homeless, 2000 people were injured and 500-600 people killed, including all those working in the vicinity.Nuclear Disaster – in 1986, a flawed reactor, teamed with insufficiently trained personnel, led to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, which saw 2 people killed from the explosions on site, and 28 people died within a few weeks due to acute radiation poisoning, and 19 died in later years, although the connection to the disaster can’t be proved. The steam explosion and fires which occurred released 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the local environment. They were still trying to put the fires out after 10 days, when they could no longer use water after the first ½ day for fear of flooding the other reactors, they dropped sand, clay, lead etc. onto the burning core from helicopters to try and stop the blaze and release of radioactive particles.Away from the plant, no one suffered from acute radiation poisoning, although there was a rise in child thyroid cancer diagnoses, which many believe to be due to the iodine fallout from the disaster. Large areas of land in surrounding towns and across country borders were contaminated. People were relocated to different areas, and the resettlement process is still going on now.Weapons explosion – prior to the invention of nuclear technologies, the worst man-made explosion occurred in Halifax, Canada, in 1917. Destroying the entire district of Richmond, the explosion was caused when a French cargo ship, SS Mont Blanc, carrying wartime weapons collided with a Norwegian ship, SS Imo, on November 6th. The collision caused a fire to break out, which in turn ignited the explosives on board. A huge explosion was caused, killing 2000 people and injuring 9000 from fires, falling debris, and collapsing buildings.The explosion caused all buildings within half a mile to be obliterated. A pressure wave tore down trees, and bent iron railings. It caused other vessels to run aground, and buildings to fall. A tsunami was also caused, which itself caused deaths and devastation, wiping out the entire local community of Mi’kmaq First Nations people that had lived in the Tuft’s Cove area for generations.Gas leak – considered by many to be the world’s worst industrial disaster. In 1984, in Bhopal, India, over 2000 lives were lost within a couple of days from an industrial chemical plant leak. It’s thought over 500,000 were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals, as the heavy and dense gas made its way quickly around the shanty towns which were located nearby to the chemical plant. Figures aren’t confirmed for how many people died after the initial few days, but estimates are that a further 8000 died within two weeks, and a further 8000 since from gas-related diseases. A further 500,000 people are thought to have received injuries from the leak.There is still debate over the cause of the disaster, with the Indian government claiming the company failed to meet maintenance requirements, causing pipe blockages, whilst the company maintains the disaster was caused by an act of sabotage, with an external party causing water to enter the tank.Either way, this is a perfect example of the sort of devastation that has been caused only since the industrial revolution, and why all of us should be meticulous in following important Health & Safety regulations, such as fire precautions workplace regulations 1997 & 1999, and taking responsibility for our fellow workers, and people living and working in surrounding towns and villages.
The fact is that the MR industry is very similar to the troubled airline industry. It is a difficult comparison to swallow. We have a high Fixed cost component like the airline industry – basically trained people whose salaries have to be paid, investments in systems, communication equipment etc. These Fixed cost component cannot be easily changed/reduced to reflect changes in business situation.How about a comparison with the hotel industry? After all the hotel industry too has a high Fixed cost structure – but has been reasonably successful in consistently maintaining high margins.I think the difference between the hotel industry and the airline industry is that the airline industry relies only on ticket fares for its revenue source i.e. it has only a single source of revenue. The hotel industry – in addition to its basic room tariff – also provides Value added service (such as food, laundry, business desk etc) and actually charge the clients for it. In other words it has multiple sources of revenue, and uses every opportunity to provide VAS and actually charge clients for it. That is the reason why the hotel industry has remained relatively profitable.The MR industry too should start genuinely providing value added services on each project – and charge clients for that service (in addition to the usual project fee). Until the MR industry starts actually DOING this (rather than just talking about it), we are destined to go the same way as the airline industry.Incidentally, the airline industry is now trying to emulate the hotel industry – witness the fact that on most airlines passengers now need to purchase food on the aircraft. But I wonder whether this model will work for airlines when they have tampered with the basic bread and butter revenue source i.e. the ticket fares. How can the airline make up for the lost revenue when it is selling seats at Indian Rupee 1 on certain sectors?