The Dirty Dozen 2024

John Franklin • 18 January 2024
in community Air Operations

In any organisation, its not always easy to translate your safety and risk management discussions into practical information and actions that you can use to help your operational staff in their different jobs and roles. There is also a lot of talk about Organisational and Human Factors and it’s important that we bring this to life to help people understand their role in managing risk to ensure safe operations and prevent accidents.

A great way to do this is through something called the “Dirty Dozen”. You might have heard of them before. They were initially put forward by Gordon Dupont in 1993 while working for Transport Canada and then adopted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators as a framework for recognizing the psychological and environmental aspects of human error. The Dirty Dozen was first used in aircraft maintenance – they are a dozen because 12 things fitted nicely on the 12 months of a calendar.

The Dirty Dozen as a way to help reduce the risk of our top safety issues

The whole point of the Dirty Dozen is to use them as practical things to think about every day. Obviously there are 12 of them - six of them are things you need to ensure successful and safe operations and the other six are things that could lead to an increase in risk. 

Everyone has a part to play - including the organisation

Obviously everyone has their own part to play in ensuring safety in everyday operations. Whether you are a pilot, cabin crew, engineer, ground staff or anything else – you are our first line of defence against the operational risks that we face. You are the ones continually identifying and mitigating risks to keep our passengers and all our staff safe. But there is only so much that you can do alone. Your success relies on the wider organisation providing everything you need to do your job. This is why our reporting system is so important. When you identify challenges in doing your job, report it to our Management System through the button on the Intranet to tell the safety and learning team about it. The problem will then be investigated and will hopefully lead to a new safety action to improve things.  You will always get feedback on any reports you submit.

Introducing the Dirty Dozen - Rebooted

The Dirty Dozen covers a wide spectrum of human factors, each link closely together as part of the landscape our day-to-day operations. Here’s a comprehensive rundown:

1. Complacency: Familiarity can lull us into a false sense of security. If we have a sense of overconfidence or routine this can lead us to act the way we think we should and not specifically in the right way for the situation.

2. Fatigue: Human performance reduces considerably when we are fatigued. Managing work schedules and ensuring adequate rest is vital for our safety and those of our passengers.

3. Knowledge: The absence of essential knowledge is a direct path to errors. Continuous learning and training are vital to ensuring safe operations.

4. Pressure: Unrealistic deadlines and expectations can put people under pressure that can lead to errors. Balancing efficiency with doing things in the right way is key. We should always try to factor in the time to do everything that needs to be done.

5. Teamwork: Safe and effective operations require many different people to work together in perfect harmony. It is easier to manage operational risks and hazards when everyone plays their different roles as part of a team and not as an individual.

6. Communication: Safe operations require everyone to know what is going on. This requires continually communication and sharing of information, between colleagues and with people from other organisation.

7. Norms: Deviating from established standards and practices can introduce risk. Upholding and reinforcing norms is critical for safety but we should also avoid group think that could lead to safety issues. If you see a process or practice that doesn’t fit the situation, report it.

8. Resources: It is important that we have enough competent people who are operationally ready and fit for duty and that we have the right tools, equipment and infrastructure in place.

9. Assertiveness: Failing to question or voice concerns can mean risks are not identified by everyone or might lead to errors. It is important that we have a mindset in every team that encourages assertiveness so that everyone in the team can speak up.

10. Distraction: A momentary lapse of attention can have lasting repercussions. Ensuring a distraction-free environment is crucial – this is particularly important at key parts of a flight or other tasks where focus is important for success.

11. Stress: Excessive stress also impacts our ability to performance to our best and impairs judgment, especially when coupled with some of the other parts of the Dirty Dozen. We should identify and mitigate stressors so please use the reporting system to help us minimise stress for everyone.

12. Awareness: Good decision making requires everyone to have a complete picture of the situation. This part of the Dirty Dozen is particularly linked to Communication, which is how we build the full picture and situational awareness can be impacted by pressure and stress especially.

What you can do

  • Think about the Dirty Dozen as you go about your day: When you think about the different parts of the Dirty Dozen, it makes it easier to identify situations where error inducing situations might build up. Many of our training programs now integrate human factors education to help set things specifically in the context of the day-to-day jobs that you all perform. This helps you to be aware of common pitfalls and are equipped to avoid them.
  • Report, report, report: There is only so much that you can do yourself as an individual or within your operational. This is why safety reporting is so important. If you identify a situation involving any of the Dirty Dozen, please report it through the internet so that others can learn from it and particularly so that the Safety and Learning Team can help put in place mitigations at an organisational level.


The Dirty Dozen has emerged as a vital tool in recognizing and mitigating human error in aviation. By continuously addressing these human factors, aviation authorities and organisations like ours are making strides in enhancing the safety and reliability of aviation operations. Our commitment to understanding and improving human performance in aviation is an ongoing journey, one that requires the collective effort of the entire industry. As aviation continues to evolve, the principles embodied in the Dirty Dozen remain a guiding beacon, illuminating the path toward a safer aviation future.

Comments (5)

Andrea Marinovich

Since I first saw the Dirty Dozen thirteen years ago, I tried to apply it to every aspect of my life, not only the professional part. Incredible how well it works, and how much it help to simplify potentially dangerous situations!
The items that I found more useful, and which I follow the most are Complacency, Fatigue and Communication. On the other side... How hard is to me to be assertive!
Do not overlook this list, it can literally save lives!

John Franklin

Apologies, a rogue sentence that escaped the final edit. The next Edition of Conversation Aviation magazine will be released next week with lots of articles looking at the Dirty Dozen from the perspective of different people in Safewings, the made-up airline we set our magazine around.

Massimo Plavsic

👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 Definitelly agree...all about the safety Is the must for me and i'm working on this matter and i'm trying to share and to teach good practices and the culture that nowadays Is really on low level.

Massimo Plavsic

To be honest i'm still don't feel safe as a passeggeri if i continue to read about bad practices (Just want to avoid worst expression) and people that admited that the manual and instructions should be updated!!?🤔🤔🤔 So i'm wondering if we're kidding as we're talking about and airplane with 100 and more passengers on the board and their lives that should be safe since the departure untill arrival,then after the famous words SAFETY FIRST,we can put on the tablet standards,policies, directives,technical comitees,Federal institutions etc.As a Quality Expert with a long experience in automotive behind some declarations i really don't know in what to still Is a master over and beyond any other thing and even AI Will not be able to change this kind of approach that Is on one hand very sad on other Is very frightening

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