Management Systems

2 March 2021

The Management Systems section contains information about the more systemic safety issues. These issues are particularly important in helping you to focus the efforts of your SMS.  

Follow-up work on each safety issue and mitigations

This information will be updated as the work of assessing each of the safety issues and developing potential mitigations progresses.

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Safety issues on management systems

Restarting operations risks spreading COVID-19

Restarting operations not only brings passengers closer together and moves them between locations with differing infection levels, it also brings aviation personnel together. Both of these factors increase the risk of further spreading the virus. Organisations will need to adapt their procedures in order to minimise the risk of infection and to ensure that work areas are regularly and thoroughly cleaned.  

Reduced oversight by competent authorities due to lockdown

Competent Authority staff have had to adapt their oversight activities to meet the COVID-19 related restrictions. With undertaking on-site visits having been difficult or impossible to arrange, oversight has not been as in-depth and in many cases the time periods between checks has increased.

Reduced focus on, or prioritisation of safety

There are multiple factors that have perhaps resulted in organisations not providing safety and safety management with the same level of attention and resources as was previously possible. These include distractions and stress at a personal level, and economic pressures and the practical pressures of returning to service at an organisational level. Also, focussing too much on returning to service and economic survival may reduce the emphasis on human and organisational factors, sometimes to the detriment of safety.

Risk assessments based on previous normal operations are no longer valid

Risk assessments performed by organisations and authorities are made in the context of specific operations and operating environments. The substantially changed and still-changing operating environment, in the addition to “new” types of operations, means that most risk assessments are no longer valid.

Restarting a complex system is challenging

The aviation system is highly interconnected, sophisticated and merges people and technology, meaning that the consequences of shut-down and restart are not completely predictable. Organisations will need to prepare good communication and decision-making strategies, using personnel expertise, data, information and good internal and external coordination.

Degraded management systems and loss of experienced nominated persons due to furlough and redundancies

The difficult financial situation of many organisations means that safety staff may have been made redundant or furloughed, while there is a significant amount of work to do in maintaining and updating safety management systems.

Application of COVID-19 health control measures may negatively affect operations

COVID-19 control measures, such as PPE and physical distancing, will have an effect on certain tasks, introduce new tasks, and may affect personnel performance. Organisations and authorities will need to assess the impact and consider whether tasks, equipment, and working environments will need to be adapted.

During reduced operations, new SOPs may be introduced that require risk assessment

The reduced air traffic should normally be managed either through existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) or through an organisation’s contingency measures. Where new SOPs are introduced, they will require risk assessment. As air traffic increases, the previous SOPs will need to be reintroduced. Change management principles must therefore be applied.

Reduced availability of aviation medical examiners (AME)

The reduced availability of AMEs implies either a reduction in available personnel, or the need to extend the period of validity of medical certificates. This will require a risk assessment in the context of each type of professional requiring a medical certificate.

Carriage of cargo in the passenger cabin

Carrying cargo in the passenger cabin is not straightforward. It requires the consideration of issues such as weight and balance, smoke/ fire detection, crashworthiness, evacuation procedures and modified loading procedures.

Risk assessment methodology for COVID-19 exemptions and temporary rules

The exemptions and temporary rules put in place to cope with the crisis may not have undergone sufficient risk assessment. A harmonised approach and routine reassessment, as and when the situation changes, may be needed.

Prevention and treatment of unruly passengers in the context of COVID-19

An increase in the number of cases of unruly or disruptive passengers should be expected, either prior to departure or in-flight. Procedures to manage this and associated training need to be developed.

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