Opening address - Forming a safety partnership to enhance safety
Qantas Group Safety Conference - keynote Address
Sydney – 13 October 2015
Thank you (Tim/Alan) for the introduction. And welcome all of you to this annual conference, I’m privileged to be amongst such a distinguish gathering.
Today, I will share my insights on how I envisage taking CASA forward into the future with a vision of forming safety partnerships across industry, agencies, regulators and across other nations - across the aviation community so to speak… to establish an environment where we can all work together to enhance the safety of the aviation environment we enjoy today. I trust the touch points I make today will closely echo with the theme of the Conference - safety, own it, share it and live it.
What we do in CASA has been determined by the Australian Parliament and is prescribed in the Civil Aviation Act and over time these functions have not changed in any significant way. CASA’s regulatory activities include the formulation, expression, administration, interpretation, application and enforcement of the civil aviation legislation. The approach of CASA’s management, staff and delegates in the conduct of those activities is what I need to shape.
When I was appointed to lead CASA, I believed that setting a fresh tone right across all of CASA’s activities was needed to face the demands of the complex and ever changing aviation environment within which we operate. I feel that a vision that fosters open conversations with mutual respect will provide a breath of fresh air to CASA and to the industry we regulate.
Consultative and collaborative approach
In the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers, CASA must, where appropriate, consult with all relevant stakeholders — this is clearly stated in the Civil Aviation Act.
CASA’s engagement with the aviation community forms a significant part of our standards development, and our educational, advisory and operational activities. I value the importance of maintaining a meaningful, collaborative and mutually respectful relationship with the aviation community. In this respect I expect CASA to develop and implement appropriate consultative and collaborative practices with a view to:
- understanding the nature and practical implications of existing and potential aviation safety issues and problems;
- deciding whether, and if so the extent to which, CASA should be involved in addressing such issues and problems; and
- identifying the most appropriate contributions CASA can make to addressing such issues and problems, recognising that a regulatory response may not always necessarily be the most appropriate contribution.
The idea is to engage with our stakeholders at the grassroots level to fully understand the underlying aviation safety issues and problems faced by the aviation community and ensure CASA’s responsibilities have been identified — this work is underway in many areas in CASA.
Having recognised the importance of a consultative and collaborative approach with the aviation community, it is important that we recognise the value of maintaining a meaningful, collaborative and mutually respectful relationship with the people and organisations that make up the Australian aviation community.
In setting the scene for forming appropriate safety partnerships within the aviation community, I have asked CASA staff to engage with the people and organisations who will, or are likely to be affected by CASA’s regulatory action and ensure they know:
- what it is that CASA proposes to do;
- why CASA is proposing to do so;
- what considerations CASA has taken into account in forming its view on the matter to hand;
- what alternatives (if any) had been considered and why those alternatives had been ruled out;
- what the effects of the proposed actions are expected to be; and
- what recourse is available to persons who are, or are likely to be, affected by the proposed action.
I consider this as the start of a long process of us genuinely engaging with the community we regulate — this is an area I’m planning to invest much more time and energy in during my tenure in CASA.
CASA is just a part of the aviation safety system — CASA is only one player in the system of civil aviation safety which needs continuous monitoring of its safety performance.
CASA’s function is to assist the rest of the aviation community to fly safely. This is done by establishing the appropriate standards, placing those standards in regulation, and informing and educating the aviation community, in the simplest and the clearest language possible, to meet, or exceed, that standard. CASA cannot achieve its safety objectives in isolation; we are reliant on the rest of the aviation community to deliver their part of the required safety outcomes.
We are all partners in safety. And we need an environment within which we can work together in a collaborative and cohesive manner. I dare to say no one here today believes CASA shares equally in the costs and other imposts you are obliged to shoulder; and we certainly do not share in your profits. In this sense, then, CASA is not, and cannot properly be a partner with those whom we regulate. This does not mean, however, that we cannot, should not or will not be a cooperative, constructive and collaborative contributor to your safety-related activities, or that we won’t do all we can do, consistent with our safety-related obligations, to minimise the costs and burdens attendant on necessary regulatory intervention — and to eliminate those costs and burdens where regulation is unnecessary.
Our aim is to keep people flying and flying safely. I would like to see CASA and industry forming a strong and appropriate ‘safety partnership’ where we all play our roles in getting the best from the aviation safety system — part of this is being open to criticism and I can assure everyone that where CASA is deservedly criticised we will listen carefully and respond. I firmly believe that by collaborating, we will get the right safety outcomes from regulations and regulatory practices that support a vibrant and strong Australian aviation community.
This does not mean that all members of the regulated community will always agree with everything CASA does. But what it does mean is that CASA’s regulatory considerations and actions must be, and must be seen to be, open and transparent, appropriately responsive to demonstrable safety concerns, fairly executed and consistently applied with a view to the achievement of legitimate safety-related objectives.
Investing in a safety partnership
Since taking up my appointment in CASA, I have met with, and listened to many passionate people in the aviation community. Views will naturally differ among a diverse group of people we look after from recreational to passenger carrying operations, but where we have common ground is our shared goal to maintain and improve on Australia’s enviable aviation safety record.
Through a range of forums and meetings with many people in the aviation community at all levels, I have made it clear that my goal will be for CASA to forge a closer safety partnership with all sectors of aviation with a view to getting the best from the aviation safety system — where CASA, as I said before, is just one player in the system we all belong to.
CASA has been, and looks forward to being, appropriately supportive of your efforts and undertakings, and in a modest way, to be a kind of ‘facilitator’ of your own deserved successes. Let me mention some examples of how this has worked well in recent times.
The engagement approach with the Qantas Group works on open, professional transparent communications between all parties. I am building a culture in our Sydney Office to support this approach. The value of this approach is more open minded inspectors who listen to the operators’ views and entertain alternative possibilities to meeting the regulatory requirements and achieving better safety outcomes. We have found this has led to the operator being much more open and sharing of their information with us.
During the development of the Qantas Group shared safety services, we were invited to observe development meetings and this informed our understanding of their objectives and streamlined the assessment process. Further, CASA too invited a number of industry participants to our internal forums such as FOI/AWI forums. This is a very different shift from ours and industry’s approach from the past.
A partnership of this kind leads to many opportunities that we haven’t experienced before. For example, Qantaslink reported that they had missed notifying us in the appropriate time frame of adding a new port. They identified the cause and had conducted detailed analysis and established procedures to prevent recurrence. In response, we noted the report but did not issue an NCN. Likewise, Qantas reported a duty period exceedance and had taken the appropriate actions to identify root cause and prevent recurrence. Again, we noted the event and did not issue any findings. This is not to say we are a soft regulator, but to say we are a regulator who is willing to work with you to enhance safety. I encourage other industry entities to follow this path.
Employ rational ‘just culture’ principles
For a safety partnership to be sustainable for a longer period of time, there is one more important cog in the wheel we need to embrace and employ — that is the application of just culture principles.
Most people in aviation have heard the term ‘just culture’ - the concept has been around for some years and is used around the globe in aviation and other sectors involved in hazardous activities.
There are many definitions of ‘just culture’, however, generally it is used to describe an approach where if you make an honest error or mistake and report it we should look at ways to educate, train or grow necessary skills so that it does not happen again.
Of course, this doesn’t mean people can or should get away with anything, or that appropriate action taken in the interests of safety may not be necessary. Gross negligence, recklessness, wilful violations or destructive acts are not tolerated and may well be subject to punishment — there is a clear line in the sand.
I believe, the ‘just culture’ approach will enhance availability of information to CASA, which in turn will make our decisions more informed and measured. The advantage of a just culture approach is that it encourages people to be open and accountable about their mistakes, so there is better reporting of errors and the ability to learn from them is enhanced. Fear of punishment doesn’t stop people from making mistakes. But mistakes can be avoided by robust safety systems, training and an overarching commitment by everyone to achieving the best possible safety outcomes.
I will be leading CASA in implementing a just culture approach. We will work to develop a regulatory and operational environment where genuinely honest mistakes are recognised for what they are — opportunities for learning and improvement. CASA’s response will be to understand why the mistakes were made and how we can reduce the likelihood that the same mistakes will occur in the future.
Where the people and organisations involved demonstrate a willingness and ability to address errors and omissions in a responsible and constructive way, CASA will not need to take enforcement action. Certainly no punitive action will be necessary. We will encourage the individuals and organisations involved to identify and understand the factors behind mistakes. We will then support them in their efforts to develop and take the most appropriate course of action to prevent a recurrence of a mistake through further training and education, while effectively minimising risks to safety in the meantime — I consider this approach a fundamental shift from our recent past - we need to recognise that a cultural change in both CASA and industry are required to harvest the real benefits of this concept.
Elements of a just culture approach are already implicit in CASA’s enforcement policy and practice. However, we will be making this commitment clearer and more explicit as part of our overarching approach to regulatory policy and practice. Together we can all work to maintain and improve safety, while fostering trust and promoting accountability.
New Regulatory Philosophy
To complete setting the future direction for CASA, I released another important policy statement last month — CASA’s new regulatory philosophy.
The regulatory philosophy sets out ten key principles to guide and direct the way our organisation will regulate Australian aviation. What I have talked about so far has been captured in this philosophy.
I believe this new regulatory philosophy is an important milestone for both CASA and the aviation community.
There is now a clear and concise set of principles to guide all our actions
Elements of these principles are already reflected in existing policies and practices but the adoption of this regulatory philosophy will sharpen the focus on how we are performing. I am committed to ensuring these principles make a real, positive and lasting difference to the way CASA operates and the way we interact with the aviation community.
I appreciate some people may be wondering how or whether these principles will make a practical change to the way we carry out our regulatory responsibilities. So I invite the aviation community to use CASA’s regulatory philosophy as a benchmark against which our performance can be measured.
A theme running through the fabric of Aviation Safety involves the notion of trust. I believe this is the main link-perhaps the missing link-necessary to any effective working relationship between a regulator and the industry it regulates. In any relationship, trust must be earned; and if it is to be maintained, the basis on which it rests must be respected and protected. Once betrayed-or once it is even believed to have been betrayed-trust can quickly be lost, and regaining lost trust can be enormously difficult.
Trust, of course, is a two-way street. It has to be mutual and reciprocal, and it is reasonable and proper to expect that verification should be readily forthcoming from both sides of the relationship. I am eager for you to see that CASA is a reliable regulator, and on that basis, that we are indeed trustworthy.
I am excited and optimistic about the future, and I look forward to working with you-constructively, cooperatively, collaboratively-in the coming months and years, with a view to a safe and vibrant future.
In closing, I draw your attention to the theme of the conference-Safety, own it, share it, live it-and I may add just one more line to complete it-CASA is part of it.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our latest thinking in regulating aviation safety in Australia. Safe Flying!