Continuing with the theme of reactive policy changes in aviation, and leading up to how they will relate to the future of SMS operations, it is important to talk about the system that most air carriers use to report and correct operational issues that might not otherwise be reported or detected using other means. This system will have a name that varies by company, but will resemble something like “Irregular Operations Report” or “Hazard Report.”
Essentially, a non-routine operations report is a system by which employees and crew members can report hazards to the operation that don’t warrant inclusion in ASAP, ASRS or FOQA. It may also provide ways to include constituents who don’t work the for the company reporting the hazard, such as a ramp operations or a fuel contractor, where there is no direct way to address the issue internally.
As an example of this, assume that a crew is taxiing to park at the gate and someone is driving a fuel truck outside of the road and at a higher than normal speed and it causes a hazard to the aircraft pulling into the gate. This doesn’t necessarily fall under the operator inclusion for ASAP (though it certainly could in some cases), but is a hazard that needs to be identified and addressed.
In this case, it might be beneficial to file an irregular operations report, identifying the hazard to the company, and then allowing the behind-the-scenes system to deal with the issue. This will typically be done through the company’s Web portal and will then typically go on-file with an operations department. The operations department will then review and classify the report, and forward it to the appropriate channels within the company for further action. In cases where it is an internal company issue, it may be reviewed by a department head, a committee, or a panel of leadership designed to acknowledge and address these specific issues with policy changes, system improvements, additional training, or other company changes.
In our example of the fuel truck, the report may be looked at by operations management, and then forwarded to the person responsible for managing the station so that they can coordinate with the fuel company to either provide retraining for the driver or to enact disciplinary action. In the case of a Fee for Departure airline (FFD), the operating company may forward the report to the base manager for the operator who then must interface with the mainline provider, who then must coordinate with the fuel company to address the hazard. It is imaginable that this process can take some time and require a great deal of effort and coordination to effect change, especially if the system is designed to provide feedback on the report.
Irregular reports can also be used to address internal operational issues that may have the potential to cause other operational or safety delays, but that aren’t immediate operational issues. Some examples of this could be hotel delays that may result in minimum rest rules being broken, operational maintenance delays, scheduling issues, and even less efficient dispatch procedures or faults.
Most companies will have published procedures for identifying and reporting non-standard operational risks as a way for the company to gather feedback, from the front line, about operational hazards and conditions that they may not otherwise know about. This is important because an important component of SMS, which will be discussed in a future issue, involves the identification and reporting of operational hazards before they cause operational risks and problems. One of the primary ingredients for SMS is the identification of hazards before they cause operational risks and problems and is a cornerstone of moving the safety paradigm from a reactive system to a proactive one.
While seemingly minor, with the goal of the prevention of accidents in mind, it is easy to see how the irregular operations report offers a straightforward and accessible way for employees to identify and address operational hazards to the appropriate people inside the company. This makes it very similar to the required operation of one of the core operating SMS principles, which will be discussed in a future issue.