CASA's relationship with industry - a new definition
CASA’s relationship with industry – a new definition
11 October 2006
Fundamental changes are being made to aviation safety regulation in Australia.
These changes result from several years of hard work and thinking within the Civil Aviation Safety Authority about how to achieve better safety outcomes, while lifting unnecessary burdens on the aviation industry.
At the heart of the changes being implemented by CASA is a fresh definition of the relationship between the regulator and the industry.
CASA must not be seen or act as a ‘nanny-regulator’. CASA cannot and should not take complete responsibility for safety outcomes.
It is obvious that CASA does not fly or maintain aircraft, manage aerodromes or train pilots and engineers.
Yet in the past there has been a mindset, both within CASA and some people in the industry, that safety was primarily the concern of the regulator and the regulations. For some years safety and operational professionals have recognised that this mind set is flawed and naive.
Never-the-less, many people are still focusing on compliance with the regulations, not whether CASA and the industry are achieving the best possible safety outcomes.
This blinkered view grew up in the early days of aviation when the regulator did indeed hold-the-hand of industry whenever safety issues had to be addressed.
In the 21st century it is certainly no longer a viable approach to safety as it is simplistic and not based on any analysis of the ever changing risks the aviation industry faces.
Indeed, risk analysis is one of the keys to understanding why CASA must change the way it works with industry.
Risk cannot be managed solely by measuring whether regulatory standards are being met or not. Risk management has to be focussed on the safety outcomes, not the processes.
All this means both CASA and people in the aviation industry have to think more critically and deeply about safety and whether or not risks are currently being managed in the best possible ways.
The good news is that CASA has developed a plan to change the way it operates and behaves to embrace these concepts of risk management and safety outcomes.
However, CASA cannot do this alone and the Australian aviation industry has to accept the challenges being thrown up by this new approach to safety.
People in the industry must accept they have the core responsibility for managing their own safety risks.
Air operators, maintenance organisations, aerodromes and training organisations – large and small as well as individuals – must identify their own safety risks and develop systems to manage those risks.
Many organisations already do this, some better than others, while there are still more that have yet to understand and accept this responsibility.
While CASA cannot manage the day-to-day operational safety risks of industry, there is, of course, much we can and will do to support and foster risk management across the various sectors of aviation.
CASA will still be the safety gatekeeper by using entry control mechanisms, such as issuing air operator certificates, certificates of approval, licences and other permissions.
These mechanisms make sure that organisations and people entering the aviation industry meet the minimum required safety standards and where necessary have appropriate safety systems in place. In other words, that they accept their responsibility to actively manage their own risks.
With aviation organisations being required to manage their own safety risks, CASA will take an even harder analytical look at prospective industry participants during the entry control process.
At the other end of the regulatory spectrum, CASA will continue to remove organisations or people from the industry who are unable or unwilling to accept their safety responsibilities.
This will be done promptly where organisations or people demonstrate they do not have the capability to deliver the safety outcomes CASA and the community expect.
But between entry control and enforcement, CASA will take a very different approach to its role.
CASA’s main emphasis will be on helping organisations and people to manage their own risks, by using motivation and education.
Although the amount of industry surveillance has and will continue to increase, there will be far less emphasis on getting involved in the operational detail of organisations through issuing administrative notices such as requests for corrective action, as this is in effect CASA doing the work of managing safety for industry.
Instead, CASA will look at the risk management systems organisations have developed and implemented and assess whether they are adequate or suitable.
Organisations and individuals must also be given the ability to accept more responsibility for safety by reducing the number of permissions CASA issues. If you are operating successfully and properly managing risks, you should not need to come to CASA for many of the permissions that are currently required.
In short, CASA will not be knocking on your door armed with the regulations and a plan to dig around until breaches are found.
When CASA carries out an audit or other surveillance the focus will be on your safety systems, safety culture and how you manage your risks.
This does not mean CASA will stop examining how you are operating. Audits and surveillance, for example, will still include observations of line-flying, maintenance work and training.
But this will be done as a way of measuring the practical outcomes of safety systems – not as an end in itself.
If shortcomings in your safety systems are found, CASA will help you to improve through safety education and support, although you will have to do the hard work to reach acceptable standards.
Failure by anyone in industry to accept and act on their safety responsibilities will continue to bring appropriate action from CASA, as the role of the safety policeman cannot and will not be abandoned.
It should be very clear the new approach to managing safety risks is certainly not about the regulator lowering standards or walking away from its role as the safety watchdog.
However, the watchdog will be taking a far more sophisticated approach to achieving safety outcomes: one that will reduce unnecessary burdens on the aviation industry, while working towards an even better air safety record in Australia.
Bruce Byron AM
Chief Executive Officer
11 October 2006