Beyond Compliance

Guiding principles for making ultra safe systems even safer

When judging existing or developing safety management systems it is helpful to have some kind of reference to judge them by. In aviation operations safety management systems are maturing and people in aviation tend to have a fairly comprehensive idea about what they should look like and how they should operate. When talking with people outside that community, yet involved in making public policy regarding or touching aviation operations, we found that these ideas were sometimes not fully understood.

This is not to blame policy makers. In our developed democratic society policy making appears to be an independent profession, detached from content. This is reflected in the fact that policymakers, be it politicians or civil servants, rotate from one domain to a completely different one rather frequently. Without operational expertise, and not given the time to acquire it, the tendency to focus on process, procedures and numbers makes sense. Yet when we look at the problems facing not just aviation, but also other domains that rely on first-line professionals for their proper functioning, it appears to be hard to separate content from process and still get satisfactory policy.

Rather Responsible than Free-for-All

The role of criminal law in aviation incidents

This advice focuses on the question as to what role criminal prosecution should play in aviation incidents. The underlying fundamental question is not only important in aviation, but also in other policy areas. What’s the social role of criminal law in situations where highly-qualified professionals acting to the best of their knowledge and abilities make mistakes?

A just culture is about protecting employees from the uncertainty associated with (...) vague definitions. For legal certainty and aviation safety, it would be advisable to let the experts decide whether behaviour can be qualified as gross negligence. Experts are also in the best position to decide who was responsible and who should be prosecuted

Furthermore, due to the ever greater complexity of business processes and due to the international dimensions of the risk issue, government cannot be expected to keep track of all individual dangers. This calls for a division of tasks in which the sector is responsible for the safety system and government is responsible for supervision of the system.

This division of tasks is jeopardised as public pressure on government to take action in each individual incident increases. In this respect, both the general public and government pay insufficient consideration to what society expects from such government action. Society apparently expects criminal law to contribute to an increase in safety, but that effect is not very likely. On the contrary, prosecution is often detrimental to aviation safety.

2009 State  Safety Programme

State Safety Programme

An Integrated Approach to Safety

New ICAO standards place a responsibility on ICAO Contracting States to have a State Safety Programme (SSP). An SSP is a management system for the management of safety by the State, and consists of an integrated set of regulations and activities aimed at improving safety. This study of the development and implementation of an SSP is carried out for the Dutch Expert Group Aviation Safety (DEGAS).

The goal of the study is to assist the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management with the implementation of an SSP in the Netherlands. In order to do so the approaches taken in the development of an SSP by the relevant Ministries and Civil Aviation Authorities of the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium are studied and compared.

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