United Airlines-UNH Safety Project Wins National Award

by Karen Grava
Director of Media Relations

A project that partnered UNH student interns and United Airlines was awarded the National Safety Council’s 2016 Green Cross for Safety Innovation award.

The award, which recognizes measurable safety innovation, was awarded at a dinner in Chicago last week. It recognizes a corporation, coalition, organization or individual that has achieved evidence-based success by taking an innovative approach to solving a long-held safety challenge.

The United-UNH data visualization project came about after the Federal Aviation Administration required airlines to implement a safety management system and following a merger between United and Continental Airlines. The project relied on data mapping to discover patterns and reduce injuries. The work done was a joint project of student interns from the University’s Center for Analytics and United Airlines’ Corporate Safety Office.

Dean Mario Gaboury (left) and Michael Quiello '75 (right) with UNH students who worked on the project

"This has been a great collaborative effort between United and UNH and is a terrific example of a ‘best-practice’ model," said Michael Quiello ’75, United’s vice president of corporate safety. "We thank the University for its support; we view data visualization as a leading-edge approach to safety, and the results have applicability in other areas of business. The National Safety Council’s recognition showcased our innovation for a very large audience as well as the partnership between United and the University of New Haven."

The project began when United needed to analyze mountains of data and put it into accessible, actionable, easy-to-use, multilingual information, Quiello said. Since United Airlines and United Express operate nearly 5,000 commercial flights a day to 342 airports worldwide, Quiello said, the information had to quickly make sense to everyone from front-line workers to top executives in multiple countries.

"The program has been a remarkable opportunity for our students to contribute to a real and meaningful project,” said Mario Gaboury, dean of UNH’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. “The college’s Center for Analytics has led this effort, providing dozens of students with unparalleled field experiences, and we are delighted that the project was so productive for United Airlines and worthy of national recognition."

The project provided flexible, easy-to-use data that drives United employees’ attention to safety. “Marketing, sales, cargo, tech operations, network operations, airport operations and food services groups all have adopted it,” Quiello said.

And best of all, the program worked. "Over two years, United reduced damages by 23 percent and injuries by 11 percent, and our airport operations division reduced injuries by 20 percent," he said.

"We continue to expand the program by adding real-time data sources, which increases transparency and improves the quality of our discussions about how we can improve as an organization," Quiello said.

"The Green Cross safety award is highly competitive and is fitting recognition for the work the UNH students have done," Quiello added. "This partnership has had tangible results for United and for the students. It was the ideal internship from both the corporate and the educational standpoint."

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