The outcome of a safety investigation should be recommendations or actions that directly address the issues identified. The goal is to try and mitigate, or eliminate, if possible, the risks that caused an accident.

It’s not easy to write an effective recommendation, but if an investigator follows the SMART method it’s more likely that those same error-producing circumstances will not occur for someone else in the future.






The goal is concrete and tangible - everyone knows what it looks like. The goal has an objective measure of success that everyone can understand. The goal is challenging, but should be achievable with the resources available. The goal meaningfully contributes to larger objectives like the overall mission. This goal has a deadline or, better yet, a timeline of progress milestones.

An example of a recommendation that follows these principles is ‘reduce the number of runway incursions by 50% in the next 12 months’. 

It’s specific – 50%.  There’ll be data that’ll mean it can be measured.  It may be challenging but it’s possible to achieve.  It’s relevant to an aviation organisation that prioritises safety.  And its statement of timeframe means it’ll be achieved in a timely manner. 

What not to do:

Not addressing the issue directly: Recommendations that, for example, ‘remind pilots to be vigilant’, or ‘follow SOP’s’, or ‘maintain situational awareness at all times’ will result in no safety improvement, if the circumstances in which those errors arose remain in place.

Falling into traps: Be wary of creating unintended consequences through safety actions or recommendations that are not well thought out. 

Wiggle words: Avoid using phrases like ‘will review’ or ‘will consider’ as this can easily result in no change being made. 


Traps for investigators

Questions to ask