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Teri L. Bristol

2013 CEOs Who "Get It"

February 1, 2013

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Teri L. Bristol
Deputy COO
Air Traffic Organization, Federal Aviation Administration

Why is safety a core value at your organization?

TERI L. BRISTOL: Occupational safety is a core value in the Federal Aviation Administration's Air Traffic Organization and specifically in Technical Operations. We embrace and promote safety to protect 10,000 of our valued co-workers within Technical Operations and the 65,000 pieces of equipment and systems to operate safely at more than 6,000 facilities nationwide. This symphony of safe coordination happens only if employees follow procedures and maintain the equipment that delivers the safest, most efficient National Airspace System (NAS) in the world. A robust safety culture is what I promote daily.

Describe your personal journey to becoming a CEO who "gets it." What experiences or lessons brought you to where you are now?

Previously, I was a voting member of the FAA National Occupational Safety and Health Compliance Committee. This forum quickly brings any newcomer up to speed on the importance of occupational safety and health; it's about people. In FAA's Air Traffic Organization, my journey began eyes-wide-open as vice president of the Service Center, which is now part of Mission Support Services, where it was all about people. I also served as acting director for Terminal Operations in the Western Service Area and as director of Terminal Program Operations. Other previous leadership roles in FAA I have had include manager for Terminal Transition and Implementation, where I helped deploy the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, and program manager of the Terminal Automation ARTS IIE program, where I deployed Automated Radar Terminal Systems in the United States and Israel. As the VP of Technical Operations and now the Deputy COO, these experiences have taught me an important lesson: By keeping the people you work with safe, you end up keeping the system safe. That's why I coined the slogan "Protect Yourself – Protect the NAS."

What is the biggest obstacle to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?

Similar to other parts of the federal government, the funding needed to maintain the infrastructure does not keep pace with the demands of the expanding need for aviation system support. FAA is maximizing legacy systems by making sure employees have the safety training and protective equipment necessary to work on them. We are working to develop a 10-Year Get-Well plan that covers the entire NAS. Simultaneously, we are engineering occupational safety considerations into new technologies to overcome costly facility and system re-work.

How do you instill a sense of safety in employees on an ongoing basis?

Throughout the year, FAA has Safety Stand Down campaigns to heighten employee awareness of safety in the workplace. Monthly newsletters with themed videos are shared with employees during safety talks.

How does your organization measure safety? What are the leading indicators that show you how safe your organization is, and where do you see room for improvement?

Safety inspections serve as indicators of areas that need safety improvements. I am pleased to share that FAA has conducted inspections on 100 percent of our staffed facilities since I have been at the helm. The OSH Program Evaluations offer a leading indicator that has been institutionalized. Adding occupational safety as a measurable part of supervisory performance is another process that can incentivize safe work practices. FAA also has a new awards program that will recognize occupational safety and health as a category to promote a safe employee, team and facility. We see room for improvement in funding of operational facilities and systems sustainability, with the end goal that workplaces and operations become more safe, efficient and sustainable.

What role does off-the-job safety play in your organization's overall safety program? What types of off-the-job safety and health programs does your organization offer to employees?

FAA has approximately 200 safety courses available to employees in the system. These courses range from a variety of topics, from Automated External Defibrillator training to motor vehicle safety training. FAA also offers employees the National Safety Council Driver Improvement Courses, which can be used for insurance rate reductions. Employees can also participate in Employee Assistance Programs when needed for professional help, covering a wide range of job health-related issues.


The Air Traffic Organization service to the flying public is to move air traffic safely and efficiently throughout the National Airspace System. Stakeholders of ATO are commercial, private and military aviation. Its 33,115 controllers, technicians, engineers and support personnel keep aircraft moving safely.

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