Airport worker health and safety management

Investigating airside accidents and incidents

Investigating airside accidents and incidents

Despite aviation employers’ best efforts to create a good airside safety culture that protects staff against the hazards caused by weather, fire, foreign object debris, falls, chemicals and hazardous materials, accidents can, and do, still happen. When they do, protocols for internal procedures are usually initiated to determine what happened and understand how to prevent future occurrences. But in the aviation industry, it’s common for other bodies to be involved in investigations too.

Internal investigations

The Flight Safety Foundation estimates that around 27,000 ramp accidents and incidents occur around the world every year. From small spillages to fatal accidents, the scope and severity of hazards are varied. When things go wrong and an accident happens, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive recommends that internal investigations should:

  • Identify trends in accidents
  • Identify underlying causes
  • Establish the effectiveness of management systems
  • Identify the need to review and/or improve management systems

Identifying improvements to management systems and addressing underlying causes can sometimes highlight the need for further training. The International Air Transport Association offers a broad range of safety training specific to ground handlers to learn about airside safety and the prevention of accidents.

RIDDOR incidents

Under RIDDOR, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, employers are required by law to report certain accidents and some dangerous occurrences. This allows enforcing authorities to identify where and how risks arise and to investigate. RIDDOR applies to all industries, including aviation, with reportable incidents including heat-induced illnesses from working in enclosed spaces, crush injuries leading to internal organ damage and serious burns, among others.

Mandatory Occurrence Reports

In the UK, serious aviation accidents, both on the ground and in the air, are overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), with occurrence reporting governed by European Regulations. For airside incidents, the CAA’s Mandatory Occurrence Reporting (MOR) Scheme requires the reporting, analysis and follow-up of occurrences relating to:

  • Fuel operations and other essential fluids
  • Aircraft damage and unintended contact
  • Ground service equipment
  • Stand conditions and the operating environment
  • Personal safety and injury
  • Aircraft de-icing and anti-icing

The CAA’s Ground Handling and Operations Safety Team (GHOST) is then in place to share any learnings from ground handling issues, with the aim of improving safety across the sector.

The CHIRP programme

The UK Confidential Reporting Programme for Aviation and Maritime (CHIRP) is a reporting system that allows aviation employees and ground staff to raise safety concerns confidentially. Their dedicated Ground Handling report has raised issues such as blocking fire extinguishers with incorrect baggage loading and concerns around adequate staff training for dispatchers. Although CHIRP isn’t an executive authority, it provides advice to industry employees and actively promotes better practices by highlighting safety and security issues.

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