Gavel on an open bookICAO Annex 19 requires certain aviation Service Providers to have a Safety Management System (SMS) and States to have State Safety Programmes. Both rely on, and cannot really operate effectively without, reporting or an openness of each to share information to identify/mitigate hazards and provide some performance measurements.

Supporting a Safety Policy

To encourage reporting, both Service Providers and NAAs need to create positive safety cultures. One important part in developing this is for people to understand how they and their reports or information will be treated along with the building of trust that this will happen (see just culture article). The organisation’s Safety Policy in part should support this approach. ASSI too has a Safety Policy; Safety Policies were discussed in more detail in a previous Safety Bulletin.

Should a report or information highlight a non-compliance, or breach of a regulation or law, it will be important for that person or organisation to understand how any enforcement action will work, and more importantly when it applies.

Enforcement is a range of actions

When people think about NAA enforcement action they immediately go the extremes of prosecution and certificate/licence revocation. People may also think that NAAs are looking to prosecute every single case, no matter what the situation. There are however many aspects to enforcement actions depending on a number of factors. Actions cover a range of severity from the usual audit follow up processes, informal and formal meetings with the NAA, to advisory and warning letters and suspensions to name a few. From the NAA’s perspective the aim is for the Service Provider to achieve compliance within reasonable timeframes in addition to maintaining a safe operation that actively identifies and manages hazards. It is not to gain as many successful prosecutions as possible.

How should the appropriate enforcement action be selected?

ICAO states that NAAs also need to consider the following when dealing with any deficiencies or breaches in regulation or the law.

In assessing an individual or Service Provider, if they have generally in the past demonstrated a commitment to solving safety deficiencies, and the actions were unintentional, then there would probably be little, if any, action taken. If they consistently and deliberately operated outside the regulation or law, the action was premeditated, there were efforts made to conceal non-compliance, they are a recurrent violator or failed to maintain an effective SMS then these aspects will move the NAA towards more serious enforcement action(s).

Any action taken by a NAA must also seek to be mindful to account for the circumstances and the attitudes and/or actions taken. It must be consistent in action considering any previous decisions taken in similar cases, be subject to both internal and external review, be fair and follow due process and be transparent.

Why should provisional suspensions be used?

There can be times when provisional suspension action must be taken where there is a reasonable concern about the ongoing safety of an operation and to enable further investigations to be conducted to determine if this is the case or not.

How should voluntary reports be considered?

In the case of a voluntary report to a NAA, providing the Service Provider has an effective SMS, is not a recurrent violator, and/or the action was not deliberate, or grossly negligent then the NAA should take no action. The NAA would then look to the Service Provider’s SMS to manage the issue.

So is it case by case?

With each case there is a lot to consider and a number of response options open to a NAA. This may well be increasingly no action as Service Providers’ SMSs mature and it is left to them to manage. However, there will still be cases where actions were deliberate and/or grossly negligent and therefore prosecutions may be required. So it is case by case.

To support ASSI’s Safety Policy we are to produce an enforcement policy to communicate the way we intend to manage this in the future, noting all these points discussed. We hope this will show the degrees of enforcement, the considerations to be taken and our general approach to this in the future.

To gain a clearer understanding of the concepts and issues there are a number of sources of information, papers, books and videos. There are a number of good short videos and papers. Try searching the internet for the following:

James Reason, Sidney Dekker, David Marx, safety culture, just culture, learning culture, safety culture, James Reason culpability model, culpability substitution test, culpability routine test.

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Next Issue

The next issue, Spring 2015, will be focusing on Reporting so if you have something you wish to contribute or useful sources of information on this please submit to: enquiries@airsafety.aero.