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Safety Culture Discussion Cards

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Category: Safety Culture Safety Culture
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You can download the whole set of cards in a PDF file from the download section.


The EUROCONTROL safety culture programme for European air traffic management (ATM) has been underway since 2003 and is now well established. The approach comprises a number of stages, including kick-off, launch, questionnaire, workshops, reporting and feedback, action planning and review/after-care.

Following a safety culture survey, there is a focus on ensuring sustained action and continuous improvement. To ensure that the enthusiasm and understanding is retained, people need to continue to talk about safety culture – reflecting on what they do, how they do it, and why.

To help continue the conversation post-survey, the concepts and issues in the safety culture survey report need to become the safety culture 'currency' of the Air Navigation Service Provider itself, not left in a report on a shelf.

The EUROCONTROL Safety Culture Discussion Cards (Shorrock, 2012a, 2012b) are a practical resource to aid real discussion about safety culture by any person or team within the ANSP, including staff and managers in air traffic operations (e.g. air traffic controllers, aeronautical information services personnel), maintenance staff, specialist staff and support staff (e.g. safety, quality, projects, human resources, legal, etc). The cards use the same concepts as the survey methodology, though everyday language is used to make the cards completely accessible. The cards can be used without the need for external support.


The cards have six key aims:

  1. Engage: The cards are a tool for potentially any individual or group who wishes to use them. They should promote ownership and provoke discussion.
  2. Educate: The cards enhance and build on users’ existing understanding of safety culture from their operational or non-operational experience. They do not give answers, but rather raise questions for discussion from a comprehensive database of issues.
  3. Enable flexible use: There are several possible ‘games’ or uses for the cards. Five possibilities are described, but users may use the cards however they wish. The cards are physical artefacts, but may also be used digitally, e.g. on smartphones.
  4. Reinforce memory: The content, especially the headlines and pictures, is designed to be memorable so that users can recognise or even aspects of the cards when they are not using them.
  5. Link to theory: While the cards are a tool for discussion and reflection rather than a method for measurement, they are based on a model of safety culture and represent a comprehensive range of issues from theory and around 20 ANSP surveys. The cards bridge the gap between research and practice.
  6. Improve safety culture: The cards ultimately help the users to think of ways to improve safety culture – and inspire them to take action based on the results.

Development of the cards

The cards build on the existing EUROCONTROL Safety Culture Survey Method. This approach helped to ensure that the cards are valid in terms of the theory of safety culture. The content of the cards was therefore driven primarily by the EUROCONTROL safety culture questionnaire for ANSPs, as well as the findings of many previous surveys of ANSPs.

Following initial development, the cards were reviewed to ensure that the style of the text was appropriate for potentially anybody within an ANSP - both operational and non-operational. As some issues are more operational, some cards were marked 'Ops' to focus more on operational ATS, AIS and Meteo personnel, and ATSEPs.

Format of the cards

The physical cards are printed in colour on A6 card. They are available in English and French. The first few cards in the pack explain (very briefly) what safety culture is, show the organisation of the cards (around the EUROCONTROL safety culture elements), and explain some possibilities for using the cards. Then, the discussion cards are sorted into eight elements.

Click on any card below to see the complete collection.

1. Management
2. Resourcing 3. Just culture,
reporting & learning
4. Risk awareness
and management
Card 1a
'Who cares about safety?'
Card 2a
'Get help'
Card 3a
'Speak up'
Card 4a
'Safe procedures'
5. Teamwork 6. Communication 7. Involvement 8. Responsibility
Card 5a
'Us, or us and them'
‎Card 6a
Card 7a
'Know your relevance'
Card 8a
'Involve. Get involved'

There are several discussion cards for each element, and each card shares a common formula in terms of design elements.

  • Headline: each card has one or a few words to characterise the issue. Some of these are phrased directly as ‘good practice’ (e.g. ‘Avoid the blame game’; ‘Challenge risk’; ‘Speak up’). Others are phrased more indirectly (e.g. ‘Teamwork on the front line’, ‘Managing risk’, ‘Blind spots’, ‘Going up, going down’).
  • Question: following the headline, a probing question is asked concerning the current situation. An example for ‘Blind spots’ is “Are you aware of ATM safety problems that are not being addressed sufficiently?”.
  • Rationale: Following each question is one or two sentences providing context or explanation. For the ‘Blind spots’ card, the rationale is “Sometimes problems seem so long-standing or difficult to resolve that they are ignored and become a ‘blind spot’.”
  • Follow-up question: Finally, a second question is asked, either probing the issue further, or asking how the situation could be improved, by the individual, team, managers or organisation. For the ‘Blind spots’ card, this is “How can you help to make sure that safety problems are resolved rather than ignored?”
  • Picture: Each card has a picture (mostly photographs) to illustrate the concept. Some are symbolic (e.g. set of scales to symbolise weighing safety against other organisational priorities; a whistle to symbolise someone who raises a safety issue), while others are contextual (e.g. an air traffic control operations room, a cockpit, firefighters). The photos were sourced from flickr.com (all with Creative Commons licences, see creativecommons.org, and credited appropriately), EUROCONTROL and two ANSPs.

There are 83 cards in total. Seventy of these are the actual discussion cards, while the rest are explanatory (introduction, photo credits, disclaimer, etc). The digital versions may be viewed on smart phones or tablets. High resolution versions are also available to print as posters.

Using the cards

There is no set method for using the cards but several cards are used to provide ideas for how the cards might be used. The options described include the following:

  • Comparing views: Different members of a team or different teams sort the cards into two piles: ‘What we do well’ & ‘What we need to improve’, then compare and discuss the piles and discuss.
  • Safety moments: In a small group, take just one card and discuss the card for 10-15 minutes, taking brief notes of any actions arising from the discussion.
  • Focus on…: Choose a specific element, such as ‘Resourcing’, and discuss each card in depth. You may sort the cards or consider questions such as: What do we do well? What and where is our ‘best practice’ on this issue? Where do we need to improve? Etc.
  • SWOT analysis: Sort the cards into strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and discuss the results.
  • Influences: Organise cards into patterns to show how the issues relate to one another. For instance, some cards may have cause-effect relationships, or may influence each other in a more subtle way. How do these relationships work in the team, unit, ANSP, etc?


Safety Culture Discussion Cards provide a means for staff and managers at all levels of air navigation organisations to discuss safety culture concepts using an established model that has now been used in over 20 ANSPs around Europe. The real value of the cards is in encouraging ownership of cards and concepts among those who use them, removing the perceived 'mystique' and fuzziness of safety culture and putting it back into the hands of those who are part of the culture.

You can download the whole set of cards in a PDF file by selecting one of the following versions:

English - low res

English - low res with 'Download at SKYbrary' ribbon

English - high res (without cropmarks)

English - high res (with cropmarks)

French / Français - low res

French / Français - high res

Spanish / Español - low res

Spanish / Español - low res with 'Download at SKYbrary' ribbon

Spanish / Español - high res (with cropmarks)

Spanish / Español - high res with 'Download at SKYbrary' ribbon (with cropmarks)

Portuguese / Portugál - low res

Portuguese / Portugál - high res

Portuguese / Portugál - high res (with cropmarks)

Hungarian / Magyar - high res

Hungarian / Magyar - high res (with cropmarks)

Finnish / Finn - low res

Finnish / Finn - high res

Finnish / Finnish - high res (with cropmarks)

Related Articles


Shorrock, S.T. (2012a). Safety culture in your hands: Discussion cards for understanding and improving safety culture. In M. Anderson (Ed.), Contemporary Ergonomics and Human Factors 2012. London: Taylor and Francis, pp. 321-328.

Shorrock, S. (2012b). Safety culture in your hands. The Controller: Journal of Air Traffic Control, April 2012. bit.ly/1I6wAng