More people now shop online and with the greater use of lithium batteries there is an increased threat to aviation safety in the area of dangerous goods.
Incorrectly packaged and undeclared items have made their way onto aircraft with some very tragic results
Passengers may unwittingly bring forbidden items onto an aircraft. They may pack forbidden items in their luggage or have forbidden hold items taken from them in the cabin that are then placed in the aircraft hold. People sometimes also ship forbidden items that are then transported by air via mail or parcel couriers.
As part of their Safety Management System (SMS), operators conducting commercial air transport flights should do dangerous goods risk assessments. These should capture the mitigations in place to ensure the safe transportation of dangerous goods, including the carriage of lithium batteries and cells. These risk assessments must be carried out by all operators no matter if the operator does or does not hold a dangerous goods approval.
Airports are required to ensure information is effectively communicated to passengers about the types of dangerous goods that are forbidden for transport on an aircraft. Airport security screening staff must also receive regular dangerous goods training so that they are able to spot and detect the carriage of prohibited items.
Prevention of carriage is the best defence. So, what should an operator be asking and thinking about?
Is the required and correct information about dangerous goods forbidden from transport on aircraft provided to passengers and acknowledged by them at the required times in the run up to boarding a flight? Don’t forget about online passenger information and processes too.
Do check-in staff and those that accept cargo have readily accessible up to date information about hidden dangerous goods? Do check-in staff also have information on the items that are permitted to be carried by passengers and crew that includes the conditions that apply? Do you have a process to handle mobility aids?
Supporting this, do staff complete the correct category of dangerous goods training that reflects their role and your operation? Is this refreshed within 24 months of their last dangerous goods training?
Is your dangerous goods information kept up to date, coordinated and reflected in training?
If approved to carry dangerous goods, are all processes and paperwork carried out correctly? Is this regularly checked?
When things don’t go to plan, is there a procedure for discovery of undeclared dangerous goods? Is there a procedure to deal with an overheating lithium battery, leaking or damaged dangerous goods?
If you are unsure of the answers to these questions or have answered ‘no’, then some further work is required. The ‘yes’ answers to these questions go some way to describe how you mitigate your dangerous goods risks and your internal audits should be checking these.
Both operators, with their agents, and airports need to work together to make sure items are carried safely and if things do go wrong everybody knows what to do. Lastly, remember to report any dangerous goods occurrences and share these. If things go unreported nobody has any idea if the mitigations are working and what needs fixing.
Further information and resources on dangerous goods can be found at:
Lithium Batteries (UK CAA)
Dangerous Goods posters (UK CAA)
IATA Dangerous Goods
FAA Dangerous Goods
Transport Canada Dangerous Goods
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