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Reporting safety events can uncover hazards, reveal mitigations, and save lives.

Did you ever wonder how many operational hazards remain hidden, particularly from those of us who could have benefited from such knowledge moments before a hazard struck us in spectacular and tragic fashion? Too many is a safe bet.

We can enhance our awareness in a way that elevates safety in the entire VTOL industry. It’s already happening and working on a smaller scale. But we have much more work to do for sharing to make a real difference in our line of work.

What’s your company’s attitude on reporting safety issues and events? Do you have the ability to promptly discover—and EFFECTIVELY ADDRESS—emerging hazards in your operation?

As HAI Chairman Randy Rowles explains in this month’s Spotlight on Safety video, “If we’re being honest, most of us would admit to some persistent challenges in our ability to find and fix latent hazards BEFORE they emerge to wreak havoc on us.”

Many VTOL operators understand that rock-solid just and reporting cultures serve as the catalysts for other key safety program elements. Open, anonymous reporting programs that obsessively focus on finding and fixing safety issues is a crucial first step in this process.

Has your organization completed the first steps in implementing a sound safety culture and nonpunitive safety reporting system, with leaders and staff who actively encourage and participate in the identification and resolution of safety issues?

Maybe you’ve built the foundation to an effective SMS but could use some help getting to the next level. Or, perhaps your safety efforts have matured to a point that you’re now ready to serve as a model or mentor to others.

If you’re seeking continuous improvement in any of these areas, here are a few thoughts and resources for your consideration:

  • Establish an SMS. There are abundant resources available on establishing and sustaining an effective SMS. The Vertical Aviation Safety Team (vast.aero) offers an extensive library of free resources.
  • Use SMS software and other safety support services. An SMS doesn’t require a fancy or complex software program to be effective. If, however, you find daily safety management duties too time-consuming, consider enlisting the support of a reputable third party, whether you require SMS software, safety documentation support, or other expert advice. HAI members can access the HAI SMS Program on rotor.org to contact three industry-leading SMS software providers that also provide other safety support services.
  • Use the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). The ASRS is a voluntary, confidential, nonpunitive incident-reporting, cooperative program established by the FAA and administered by NASA. Information collected by the ASRS is used to identify deficiencies and discrepancies in the US National Airspace System and enhance the basis for human-factors research and recommendations for future operations.
  • Participate in the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP). US-based operators can enroll in this FAA-sponsored program, which encourages voluntary event reporting and enables prompt identification, reporting, and resolution of potential safety hazards without fear of reprisal. To alleviate operator workload, HAI partnered with the Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) to help implement and manage HAI member ASAP activities. Go to rotor.org/asap to learn more.
  • Share data through the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) system. This FAA program has transformed the way valuable data is exchanged between a growing number of US operators. The ever-expanding ASIAS system is designed to promote the open exchange of lifesaving information to continuously improve aviation safety. HAI partners with the FAA and other stakeholders to support ongoing development, testing, and implementation of ASIAS program capabilities tailored to the unique needs of the VTOL industry. Go to faa.gov to learn more.
  • Care enough to share. Tell others your story. Even when recounting the events of a mundane flight or maintenance procedure, there’s almost always something that didn’t go as anticipated and is thus worth sharing to enhance operational efficiency, effectiveness, and safety.

As this month’s Spotlight on Safety poster illustrates, routine reports can also reveal trends and hazards that, left unchecked, can snowball into a much larger issue. Such information sharing also ensures that frontline workers (those who are aware of all the hazards) are directly invested in the process of continuous improvement. Then, when things really go sideways, these same workers won’t hesitate to promptly share the details of the problem and, hopefully, offer an honest assessment of what they might have overlooked or recount brilliant tips on how they overcame the challenge.

If you’re attending HAI HELI-EXPO 2022 in Dallas, Texas, Mar. 7 through 10, come join the HAI Safety Working Group for the annual HAI Safety Symposium, Mar. 7, from 8:30 to 10:30 am. We’ll hear from two guest speakers who’ll share their personal stories of how they survived an IIMC encounter and two separate crashes into the water. Visit heliexpo.com/safety for more details.

Author

  • After an aviation career in the US Army and Coast Guard, Chris Hill oversaw aviation safety management systems throughout the USCG as aviation safety manager. He holds an ATP rating and has logged more than 5,000 flight hours, primarily in military and commercial helicopters. Chris joined HAI in 2018 as director of safety.

Chris Hill

Chris Hill

After an aviation career in the US Army and Coast Guard, Chris Hill oversaw aviation safety management systems throughout the USCG as aviation safety manager. He holds an ATP rating and has logged more than 5,000 flight hours, primarily in military and commercial helicopters. Chris joined HAI in 2018 as director of safety.

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