European Aviation Safety Management
The system in Europe for ensuring aviation safety is mainly based on a set of rules that is overseen by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and National Aviation Authorities, which have been developed after years of experience. This reactive system was effective for many decades in delivering not only a very good safety record for aviation in Europe but also one that has steadily improved.
However, as the aviation system has grown more complex, regulatory compliance as the mainstay of safety has reached its limit. To maintain the current low level of air accident fatalities, the European Union must ensure that the rate of air accidents continues to decline in order to match the continued growth in number of flights.
Both at international and European level, the need was recognised for moving towards a system that is evidence-based and proactive and provides for a systemic approach to safety; in other words, the introduction of the 'Safety Management' concept.
Safety management systems’ requirements have been introduced in EU law and cover most aviation domains. In addition, the EU has regulated the reporting, analysis and follow-up of aviation safety occurrences, which is an essential component of a proactive and evidence-based safety system.
Reporting, analysis and follow-up of occurrences in civil aviation
Aviation accidents are often the result of a chain of events, meaning that often they cannot be attributed to a single cause. However, this also means there are multiple opportunities to prevent them before they occur and if any link in such a fatal chain is removed, then an accident may be avoided.
Therefore, beyond accident investigation, the crucial element in preventing aviation accidents is reporting and careful analysis of all events and failures, even the smallest, in daily operations, which may indicate the existence of potentially serious safety hazards that may lead to accidents if not corrected.
Occurrence reporting takes a system-wide and data-driven approach to accident prevention and recognises that moving beyond blame, except in certain defined situations, is essential in enhancing safety in a proactive way – these notions have been confirmed through decades of safety and human factors research.
The current legislation on occurrence is Regulation 376/2014 . The rules set out how relevant safety information relating to civil aviation is reported, collected, stored, protected, exchanged, disseminated, analysed and acted upon. These rules apply from 15 November 2015.
To ensure that front-line aviation professionals report occurrences that may pose a significant risk to aviation, the Regulation provides for the establishment of mandatory and voluntary reporting systems of incidents linked to aviation safety in organisations, the competent authorities of Member States and in the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
The Regulation aims to establish a trustful atmosphere in which aviation professionals feel confident to report events, including their own mistakes. In particular, it states that information collected must only be used by organisations and States for the purpose of improving safety and must not be used against the reporters or the persons mentioned in the record of events, except in certain defined situations.
The Commission manages a European Central Repository to store all occurrence reports collected in the EU. Its access is limited to the Member States and EASA.
On 29 June 2015, the Commission published the Commission Implementing Regulation 2015/1018 that classifies what occurrences in civil aviation are to be mandatorily reported.
The Commission, with the support of the EASA, has undertaken several initiatives to support the industry and Member States with the implementation of these Regulations. In particular, it has set up a European Reporting Portal , which facilitates the collection of occurrences by authorities and provides information on reporting, analysis and follow-up of occurrences. It has also supported the development of a European Corporate Just Culture Declaration , signed by employers and staff representatives.
Safety Management at EU level
On 25 October 2011, the Commission published a Communication on setting up an Aviation Safety Management System for Europe . The Communication spells out how actions to address risks to aviation safety can be managed in a coordinated fashion. The Communication was also the vehicle for publishing the first edition of the European Aviation Safety Programme (EASP) document, which conforms to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) format for a State Safety Programme (SSP). The EASP augments and complements the SSPs of Member States.
The EASP document explains how safety is managed in the EU and its Member States through an integrated set of regulations, together with the activities and processes used to jointly manage the safety of civil aviation. In other words, it presents a 'snapshot' of all the rules and processes that contribute, in an integrated manner, to the prevention of accidents and to the safety of aviation activities in the Union.
By describing the processes used to jointly manage safety at European level and, in particular, how the European Commission, the Member States and the EASA cooperate to detect unsafe conditions and take actions to mitigate safety risks, the EASP helps bring clarity on where the various responsibilities for safety lie within the EU. It makes clear how the EU as a whole can achieve and maintain a satisfactory safety performance. It also provides transparency to all stakeholders with an interest in safety.
The European Aviation Safety Programme is complemented by the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS) that identifies the specific risks currently affecting the Union aviation safety system and proposes mitigating actions to address these risks. This Plan is prepared and adopted by the EASA with the support of Member States and the Commission.
In order to ensure it remains efficient in preventing accidents and mitigating risks, safety management needs to continuously adapt to changes in the aviation market, technological evolution and the emergence of new safety hazards. The EASP document therefore requires regular updates to reflect the changes.
In December 2015, the Commission adopted the 2nd edition of the European Aviation Safety Programme document, as well as a Report on the European Aviation Safety Programme .
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