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EASA: 360° attention is needed to ensure safe operations

Its assessment of aviation safety risks related to the COVID-19 epidemic is published -ATTACHMENT

In view of the progressive increase in flight activity levels throughout Europe, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in collaboration with the national regulatory authorities and the main sector partners, has published the report with the results the assessment of possible aviation safety risks related to the return from the Covid-19 emergency.

The document is the result of a public survey and follow-up meetings with all institutional and social stakeholder groups and now its headquarters are already working on identifying the necessary recommendations to be made available to the entire airline industry.

"We have identified many security problems", says the Agency, "because the operating environment has been heavily impacted by the pandemic and it is necessary not to remain anchored to the systems of the past, because nothing will be as before and it will be necessary to adapt to a new normal".

In particular, there are 6 areas identified by EASA, on which Member States and sector operators will have to focus their attention:

Management systems;

Human factor;

Training, control and updating of training; 

Obsolete information;

Infrastructure and equipment;

Financial impact on security.

The company safety management system, in technical jargon SMS (Safety Management System) is the complex of procedures and functional hierarchies that guarantee compliance with the regulations in the company, identifying and evaluating how to eliminate or mitigate the risks to flight safety. 

If these systems lose agility and independence within an organization, for example due to a corporate restructuring, a number of important security issues could be triggered. 

No Organization is immune and for this reason EASA recommends attention in the business choices that concern the companies’ safety management system.

The human factor is one of the 6 potentially most problematic macro areas in the period of return to post lockdown operations.

Today there is a strong possibility that organizations cannot guarantee the same levels of safety, for example due to the increased level of stress to which staff are subjected.

If companies therefore decide to focus their resources only on the return to operations and economic survival, reducing the attention on human and organizational factors, this could constitute a safety risk, according to the Agency.

In this new landscape, organizations should instead take the chance to improve communication with workers and involve them in decision-making strategies, using all available skills, in a coordinated manner.

The new anti-COVID-19 health measures, such as the use of Personal Protective Equipments and physical distancing and the related introduction of new procedures, could hinder worker performance, it is therefore important, according to the Agency, that a high level of listening by management is achieved, in order to promptly evaluate how to adapt procedures and work environments.

Another risk that EASA has identified within the Human Factor area is that linked to the potential increase in cases of unruly passengers, both before departure and during the flight, for this reason it is important to update, together with the procedures, also worker training, bearing in mind that it will be necessary to adopt adequate management and mitigation strategies, which also include greater attention and management of the operators' fatigue risk (operational fatigue), especially if the operations require particularly demanding or long shifts.

The third area of attention is that relating to the continuous training of Aviation staff.

Its report suggests the creation of adequate platforms that assist workers also in transposing and understanding the new procedures clearly.

The fourth area of attention according to its report is  the so called risk of "obsolete information", the one linked to the unavailability of relevant updates of the operating procedures and documentation, in particular if there were temporary revisions or updates, not still received by the worker concerned. 

This shortcoming could have a cascading effect on the security of all operations.

In terms of infrastructure and equipment, the Agency detects various other risks, including the possibility that aeronautical information suppliers have not been able to implement or even publish information or data in a timely manner or the risks related to the maintenance of equipment, signs and the cleaning of airport surfaces, which may not yet be adequate at the time of operations are resumed.

Finally, the sixth macro area concerns the risks that could derive from the reduction of available financial resources, with the related loss of qualified personnel, as well as the increase in pressure on the staff remaining in the company perimeters. 

Long-term investment plans could shift or change, creating further uncertainties, perhaps just in the period when traffic levels are starting to recover.

This of the financial resources available to Air Transport companies is a discussion still open to debate and it is not yet known, for example, whether the reduction of financial resources will generate airlines with aged fleets, or on the contrary will see the opposite effect with the replacement of older aircraft with newer ones.

The EASA Aviation Safety Issues Review (nine pages) is attached to this AVIONEWS

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency