Mobility and Transport


Accident prevention through occurrence reporting

Accident prevention through occurrence reporting

Aviation accidents rarely result from a single failure but rather from a combination of events - for example, an error in maintenance that causes a failure in flight that a member of the flight crew then responds to incorrectly. In other words, accidents result from a chain of events that make them difficult to analyse but also provide multiple opportunities to prevent them. If any link in such a fatal chain is removed than the accident can be avoided.

Thus, beyond accident investigation, the crucial element in prevention of aviation accidents is reporting and careful analysis of even the smallest incidents, failures and other occurrences in daily operations which may indicate the existence of potentially serious safety hazards which if not corrected may lead to accidents (accident precursors).

Occurrence reporting takes a system wide and data-driven approach to accident prevention and recognises that moving beyond blame is essential in enhancing safety in a proactive way – notions which have been confirmed through decades of safety and human factors research.

The currently applicable legislation on occurrence reporting is Directive 2003/42/EC , which calls aviation professionals to report, in a protected environment, abnormal events or other irregular circumstances which, if not corrected, may lead to an accident. Directive 2003/42/EC was supplemented with implementing rules establishing a Central European Repository of information on civil aviation occurrences (Regulation 1321/2007 ), which contains all occurrences collected by EU Member States, and rules on the dissemination of the information stored in the European Central Repository (Regulation 1330/2007 ).

In 2013, over 600.000 occurrences were stored in the European Central Repository. This Repository is supported by the European Commission through the ECCAIRS system (European Co-ordination Centre for Accident and Incident Reporting Systems), managed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission .

However, the current legislation is affected by a number of shortcomings which limits its usefulness for safety purposes. Therefore, to address these shortcomings and improve the existing system, the European Commission has adopted, on 18 December 2012, its Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on occurrence reporting in civil aviation (COM/2012/0776) Press release and Memo .

The main objectives of this proposal are the following:

  • Ensure full awareness of actual and potential risks in aviation safety by improving the collection of safety occurrences. The new rules aim to establish a system where people feel confident in reporting information;
  • Ensure that the information collected is analysed and that actions necessary for maintaining or enhancing the level of aviation safety are taken and their effectiveness monitored;
  • Ensure that the information collected is appropriately shared among Member States and that it is used only for the purpose of improving safety.

The text is currently under discussion between the co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council.