Promoting safer communications on frequency

Promoting safer communications on frequency

No matter which Industry you are currently involved in, there is one significant factor that is guaranteed to affect the successful operation for any task at hand, and that is communication.  

When we, for example, are able to see the other party that we are currently talking to, and interact with them in person, even though we may not necessarily each speak the same language as the other, we are able to relay most of the intended message to them by using body language such as:

  1. pointing towards an object,
  2. hand movements,
  3. nodding of the head, etc.

Through this type of interaction, we will at some point have marginal success in being able to relay the intended message, and have it mostly understood correctly by the receiving party. This does not however support safety in the workplace. 

The outcome when trying to do these same type actions, while communicating with the receiving party on a two-way radio, that we are not able to also have visible at the time, is also guaranteed to not support safety in the workplace, and result in a potential negative outcome.  Especially if, coupled to this, the parties try to communicate with each other in languages that are foreign to both.  

In any Industry that one could refer to, you would have to consider the fact that the people involved in any related project would be required to apply proven communication practises to ensure the safety for that operation/s.

Since miscommunication and language barriers are human errors that could gravely impact flight safety and put those on board at risk, ICAO established English language proficiency as requirements in the Aviation Industry for pilots and air traffic controllers serving and operating international flights. Though English was chosen as the language of the skies at the Chicago Convention in 1944, ICAO only really focused on addressing language proficiency for pilots and air traffic controllers in September 1998. Following this, in 2008 an English language proficiency test was established as part of the requirements for pilots and air traffic controllers to be competent within the field of Aviation English.

The Maritime Industry followed sought, through the STCW Convention and, in compliance with IMO requirements that stipulates the need for Seafarers to communicate in English language respectively. All seafarers and other maritime professionals need to have gained a specific vocabulary that is necessary to work safely and efficiently on board any shipping vessel, especially when communicating on Frequency.

Aviation and Maritime English is applied through the inclusion of the phonetic alphabet, specific radio phraseology and contact procedures. While much of the language is technical, functional command of English is necessary to pass along essential messages as clearly, fast, precisely and as naturally as possible, particularly when there is an emergency.

Although these two Industries continue to include these procedures as a Mandatory requirement for any operator when speaking on frequency, it is not known at the time of writing this Blog what procedures do other Industries follow for radio communication in the workplace? Should the principle that the Aviation and Maritime Industries follow, be applied throughout and form part of each operators Safety Management System? I look forward to hearing from you if you would like to include your thoughts on this subject… (see reply email below).

If you or your company are interested in finding out more about Operational English related radio courses in the workplace please email:

 Until next time, stay safe.