This Cabin Safety Bulletin is to guide those managing and supporting crew members now returning to line operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should use this bulletin help manage risks associated with an increase in aviation activity over the coming months.
A cabin safety bulletin helps guide cabin safety by providing recommendations and education.
Recommendations in this bulletin are not mandatory.
Who does this bulletin apply to?
The bulletin applies to operators who are returning cabin crew to line operations after a long break due to COVID-19.
Period of effectivity
Effective date: August 2021
Removal from circulation: August 2022
Due to the global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation has faced significant challenges resulting in change to line operations and training and checking regimes
As the environment remains uncertain, it is difficult to predict how aviation will fare over the next year, and given the situation is without precedent, any associated risks cannot be easily defined.
Due to this unique nature, there is also an absence of historical safety data to identify potential hazards.
Operators may be impacted by pending threats emerging over coming months, even where line operations have continued. Crew members may be feeling overwhelmed, concerned and under confident due to their recent lack of exposure to line operations.
The COVID-19 environment has resulted in many effects on operators, which should continue to be identified and assessed for example:
- Concern for family health and welfare.
- Operating under CASA exemptions.
- Concerns of job security, career progression and salary.
- Reduced interaction between management and operational staff.
- Reduced numbers of crew members.
- Reduced levels of recent experience.
- Extended periods between competency checks.
- Limited training opportunities or changes in training delivery.
- New and unfamiliar procedures.
- New or unfamiliar types of operation or business models.
- New and evolving threats replacing known, managed threats.
- Extra time spent completing COVID biosecurity measures such as self-testing and administrative procedures.
- Disruptions to domestic arrangements such as hotels, airport transfers, meal provisions.
With a view to managing some of the above effects, operators should consider the following information, within their safety management systems (SMS). Below is guidance only and the list is not exhaustive.
- Complete a thorough hazard and risk analysis related to the operation.
- Ensure any changes to your operations are considered and assessed.
- Consider a modified approach to normal operations, using markers to check progress.
- Consider the interactions and expectations of multiple organisations, especially if they’ve changed their procedures.
- Consider the effects of the whole operational environment on human performance.
- Educate all crew member on any personal issues that may manifest together with appropriate defences.
- Assess any impact of new business opportunities before implementing and consider the resource requirements.
Line operating crew members/check and training personnel
Develop a 'Fitness for Duty' training program, which could include:
- Mental health monitoring.
- Fatigue monitoring.
- Impact of bio-security procedures - including long term use of onboard personal protective equipment.
- Pressure generated because of additional COVID related duties such as self-testing.
- Review, update and publicise the fitness for duty policy.
- Implement and promote peer support programs.
- Provide guidance to crew members to help them report health concerns.
- Ensure you have enough available staff to cover increased sick leave, delays and staff required to quarantine.
- Establish a return-to-work training program that includes a briefing for check/training staff and crew members.
- Consider a pre-return-to-work briefing for check and training staff.
- A proper induction to the organisation’s procedures needs to be ensured in the case of contracting certified external expertise or recalling former employees.
- Existing training programs, designed for normal operations, should be re-assessed as they may insufficiently address skills and knowledge degradation, notably where continuous qualification is needed.
- You should continue to monitor staff training status.
- Additional training for new tasks, procedures or training for continuous qualification should be planned and provided in a timely manner.
- Training needs and qualification status for all staff, internally and externally, should be continuously monitored. Additional training for new tasks or new procedures or training for continuous qualification should be provided and planned in a timely manner.
- You may need to consider on-the-job training to complete training objectives.
- You should conduct regular safety performance checks to ensure staff are trained to the required level, the correct procedures are in place and followed by staff.
- Crew members returning to work after extended absence may lack confidence. You can raise this through team meetings and staff newsletter and encouraging confidential reporting.
- Consider the effect of any increase in workload which may result in a sudden increase in operational hours and the extra safety requirements due to COVID-19.
- Support operational procedures that allow crew members to consider their currency, proficiency and familiarisation when managing certain situations. You could do this by encouraging crew to take extra time to complete tasks for example.
- Reinforce competencies and behaviours which trap errors such as careful cross-checking, enhanced vigilance during safety critical functions, monitoring, following SOPs, effective pre-flight briefings, etc.
- Consider lack of familiarity and the additional time required to complete routine tasks and factor this into operational planning.
- Remind crew members of the effect that disruptions and distractions have on operational activities procedural omissions are more likely.
- Reduce low-priority procedural changes to avoid unnecessary distractions which may cause errors.
- When making a change, check how it will impact the organisation and external stakeholders. Consider the effects on contingency planning and what impact it will have on your staff.
- Audit activity should check for any poor operational performance and unexpected challenges.
- Review safety performance indicators (SPIs) to ensure they reflect and monitor a return to normal line operations.
- Consider increasing the frequency of safety meetings, reviewing safety data against flight scheduling to understand your risk profile.
- Increase safety promotional activities for cabin crew and encourage feedback.
- Ensure you communicate regularly to inform staff of any changes to COVID procedures.
- Incorporate fitness for duty during crew member briefings and cabin safety management meetings.
- Encourage cabin safety staff to look after themselves by:
- assessing their own competence and confidence levels
- recognising stressors such as fatigue in the operational environment and how it may impact their performance
- ensuring they are eating well, especially on long days or sectors where there may be a lack of options.
- seeking support from, and giving support to colleagues
- using company reporting systems to provide feedback, including proactively highlighting operational challenges, near misses, and any event which may have adversely affected safety.
Sample guidance for crew members returning to line operations
You can provide this information crew members who are returning to operational duty to highlight deficiencies that may present.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, and the reduction in your flying hours you may suffer from a reduced level of proficiency and other human performance limitations, depending on the length of time away from operational activities.
This may also impact your colleagues and others in the airline.
As cabin crew you will need to adopt a focused approach and develop coping strategies as outlined below.
Ensuring safe performance
- Familiarise yourself with new or modified procedures.
- Review all standard operating procedures and emergency procedures.
- Allow more time for everything, including activities that you may consider routine in nature.
- Spend more time briefing as a team and acknowledge that you may be more likely to make mistakes.
- Do not forget that other operational staff may also be less current and operating with reduced capacity meaning errors may be more likely.
- Both you and your colleagues may be experiencing the same reduced capacity.
- You and your colleagues may be experiencing a deterioration of skills.
- You may be slowed down by biosecurity requirements which may cause frustration for you and your passengers and mean usual tasks may take longer.
- You and your colleagues may experience more fatigue both mentally and physically at this time.
- Monitor your own performance and those of your crew. Expect errors to be made by yourself and others, ensure you check.
- If you have made a mistake, think about the possibility that someone else may have made one at the same time. Consider the cumulative effect. Go back and double check.
- Be aware that your capacity may become limited. Let your colleagues know if you feel under pressure, especially in unfamiliar or unexpected situations. Take more time when there is doubt or distraction.
- Recognise when workload is increasing for you and others. Check on your colleagues and keep working as a team.
- Be prepared for unexpected delays, disruptions and diversions.
- Operate carefully especially while undertaking safety critical tasks.
- Follow SOPs.
- You may be lacking the awareness to monitor situations as effectively as you used to be able to.
- Ensure you stay hydrated and eat well. This will help to maintain your individual alertness and performance. Make time for meal breaks.
- Use your airline’s safety reporting system to report hazards identified during the duty. Include things such as unexpected challenges, errors, workload issues, etc.
- If your airline has one, chat to your Employee Assistance Program to discuss health and wellbeing concerns.
- Communicate any concerns with your management team. Use confidential reporting facilities as you see appropriate.
- Consider asking for extra training, if necessary.
- Seek support from, and offer support to, colleagues before a situation gets worse.
- Allow yourself adequate time to rest and recover.
- Assess your health and fatigue status after each duty.
- Civil Aviation Authority United Kingdom SN–2021/011 Awareness of Skill Fade and Suggested Mitigations (7 May 2021)
- Civil Aviation Authority United Kingdom SN–2021/012 Operational Resilience – Aviation industry recovery post COVID-19 (10 May 2021)
- European Union Aviation Safety Agency Maintain safety focus during the COVID-19 pandemic V1.0 (8 October 20)
- International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Cabin Crew Training Solutions Roadmap (icao.int)
View the cabin safety pages.
If you would like more information, get in touch with our Guidance Delivery section using the Regulatory guidance enquiry form.
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