Safety management and COVID-19

Bombardier Learjet 60XR
Bombardier Learjet 60XR © Bombardier

Aircraft do not get sick from viruses but nonetheless COVID-19 is an aviation hazard.

The virus has brought many challenges for aviation organisations, each of which has the potential to get past existing safety risk controls. Turbulent business conditions are an invisible but real hazard, just as turbulent air is in the sky.

CASA has created guidance to help Australian aviation organisations manage the aviation safety risks that come with adapting to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Where an organisation has an existing SMS, it will have management of change procedures. Broadly speaking these involve:

  • formally considering each change
  • identifying any relevant hazards
  • assessing the risk
  • implementing appropriate mitigations.

Because a large number of different changes may be occurring within organisations, it is also important that organisations consider the cumulative effect of interactions between the changes being implemented.

Organisations may also need to consider and balance non-aviation risks, such as the public health risks associated with COVID-19. These too can be captured through the management of change process. And all these risks need to be actively managed for the duration of the pandemic.

For organisations that do not have a documented SMS or management of change procedures, there is a useful six-step management of change process (from the SMS for Aviation – A Practical Guide – Book 4 Assurance):

  • Step 1: Communicate and consult
  • Step 2: Develop the case
  • Step 3: Conduct risk assessment and planning
  • Step 4: Prepare the plan
  • Step 5: Implement the change
  • Step 6: Ongoing monitoring and review.

COVID-19 means changes often have to implemented very quickly but the six-step process can be applied no matter how urgent the change.

Approved Safety Plans

CASA has required organisations to provide a safety risk mitigation plan (an Approved Safety Plan) to extend the applicability of provisions in COVID-19 related exemptions. An Approved Safety Plan is similar in intent to a safety case but is temporary and specific in nature to COVID-19 related exemptions. An Approved Safety Plan provides specific documented evidence, approved by CASA, that demonstrates the change and risk management activities associated with the exemption have been managed to maintain acceptable safety of operations.