Today’s aviation safety system primarily relies on technological progress, legislation overseen by regulatory authorities and lessons learned from investigations into accidents. This reactive approach, however, has shown its limits in the ability to generate significant safety improvements. And though challenges still exist, the new Occurrence Reporting Regulation is a step forward for an ever safer aviation.
See the evolution of the European regulatory framework on occurrence reporting!
Existing incident reporting schemes
The new EU Regulation 376/2014, repealing EU directive 2003/42/EC, is in force as of 15th Nov 2015. Following the preceeding Directive that had already established the basis for mandatory safety occurrence reporting systems, it went some steps further. The shortcomings, in particular, the lack of protection of the reporters, the lack of harmonisation in the occurrence data collection and integration leading to low quality reports and incomplete information, as well as the lack of requirements regarding safety analysis and recommendations were identified and addressed.
What is the Occurrence Reporting Regulation?
Given these shortcomings, the EU Commission proposed a new Occurrence Reporting Regulation (ORR) in Dec 2012 and put it into effect in Nov 2015. This new piece of legislation shifts the focus from a ‘reactive’ system to a pro-active, risk- and evidence-based system. It also acknowledges that safety occurrence data is vital to allow for the timely identification and management of potential safety hazards – and acts upon this before these hazards turn into an actual accident.
The ORR proposal therefore set up a comprehensive framework and standards for reporting, collecting, storing, protecting and disseminating the relevant safety information. It also introduced requirements on information analysis and adoption of follow-up safety actions at national level.
Reducing the risk of air accidents
…was the core objective of the proposed ORR. To achieve this, the focus needed to shift from taking ‘corrective’ action after an accident has happened to the prevention of air incidents and accidents. The best approach for proactive prevention is one that encourages the reporting of and learning from mistakes. To do this, pilots, air traffic controllers and all other aviation safety-professionals must be able to share information about any errors or mishaps in an environment based on trust, one which neither entails blame nor leads to ungrounded prosecution.
This is why aviation safety professionals were actively advocating for the so-called ‘Just Culture’ principles all along the legislative process. These principles aim at encouraging open exchange of information about any events or mistakes.
The new ORR, with ECA at its foreront, made a major contribution to strengthening this Just Culture approach. Among others, it contains provisions against the inappropriate use of safety information and for a strict protection of the reporter of a safety occurrence. It also describes how the Just Culture principle is guaranteed and implemented within each company, including a ‘whistle-blowing’ mechanism on which individuals can rely on in case this Just Culture principle has been violated.
The Just Culture related provisions constitute an important central pillar of the new OR system, as everyday reality shows that establishing a proper safety culture at company level – even with a good legal framework – remains a challenging task; barriers still discourage professionals from reporting safety occurrences. Any occurrence going unreported reduces the ability to learn from it and to prevent it from turning into an accident.
The new ORR therefore is an important step to overcome these reporting barriers and to set up a proactive approach to prevent air accidents and loss of life.
EASA’s role in occurrence reporting
One central pillar of Europe’s new OR system is the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) which receives a key role to play. The ORR enshrines EASA’s active involvement in a number of concrete ways:
- Safety occurrences collected will be transmitted to Member States’ competent authorities and to EASA;
- All occurrences collected by Member States (MS), organizations and EASA are aggregated into the European Central Repository (ECR), and EASA and MS have access to all data and information contained the ECR database;
- EASA and MS analyse (and exchange) the information contained in the ECR, and they do so ‘collaboratively’ within the ‘Network of Aviation Safety Analysts’; the Network is chaired, prepared and organized by EASA;
- This analysis complements what is done at national level, e.g. by identifying possible safety problems and key risk areas at European level, and by informing the European Aviation Safety Program (prepared by the Commission) and the European Aviation Safety Plan (prepared by EASA);
- EASA (as well as MS and Commission) are bound by strict confidentiality requirements related to the safety information and the reporters of such information;
- EASA advises the Commission (and MS) in the so-called ‘EASA Committee’, which will cover matters related to occurrence reporting.
Such a central role for EASA is a must for the new OR system to run smoothly and in a coordinated manner, while allowing Member States to remain fully involved and engaged.
- 2012 Dec - Following the publication of the ORR proposal by the EU Commission in December 2012 both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament (EP) were actively engaged in a dialouge, examined the text, and posed their proposals under the ‘co-decision’ procedure that outlines as follows:
- 2013 June - While the Council of Ministers adopted its informal “General Approach” position on 10 June, watering down several key provisions related to Just Culture, the EP’s draft report has been published in June
- 2013 July - The EP's report was followed by a debate in the EP Transport Committee in July. It was followed by a consultation perdio where Members of the EP have tabled further amendments to those already proposed by the EP ‘rapporteur’ Christine de Veyrac (EPP) in her draft report
- 2013 Sept - The EP Transport Committee adopted the draft reportof Mrs de Veyrac on 17 September. It included some very valuable improvements, especially on the appropriate use of the information and protection of the reporter. Following the vote in the Transport Committee, negotiations between the EP and Council of Ministers resulted in a compromise text agreed upon between the two institutions
- 2013 Dec - This compromise text was adopted by the EP Transport Committee on 17 December
- 2014 Feb - Afterwards it was voted by the EP Plenary on 26 Feb 2014 with an overwhelming majority (644 in favour, 14 against)
- 2014 Apr - Following the EP vote, the Council endorsed the text on 3 April 2014 and the regulation was published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
- 2015 Nov - The new EU Regulation 376/2014 is therefore applicable as of 15 November 2015 (i.e. 18 months later)
- Reporting Matters! - ECA campaing on the new ORR - November 2015
- The New Occurrence Reporting in a Nuthsell - ECA - November 2015
- Pilots commit to open aviation safety reporting - ECA Press Release- October 2015
- New regulation on Occurrence Reporting - Europolitics - 17 March 2014
- 644 Members of the EU Parliament say "YES" to prevention of air Accidents - ECA Cockpit News - 6 March 2014
- Commission welcomes European Parliament's vote for improved aviation safety - EU Commission Press Release - 26 February 2014
- EU aviation safety law agreed - New Europe - 27 February 2014
- EU reaches whistleblower deal - Air Traffic Management, 23 December 2013
- ECA-IFATCA Press Release: Good news for aviation safety: New non-punitive EU incident reporting scheme - 17 December 2013
- Occurrence reporting directive agreed - New Europe, 2 December 2013
- ECA-IFATCA Press Release: European Parliament puts aviation safety first, 17 September 2013
- ECA-IFATCA Press Release: Better protection for safety reporting in EU aviation, 1 July 2013
- ECA Press Release: EU Transport Ministers take a step back on preventing air accidents, 10 June 2013
- ECA-IFATCA position paper on the Occurrence Reporting Regulation proposal, 22 April 2013
- New Occurrence Reporting rules enhance aviation safety, 1 March 2013
- ECA Press Release: New Occurrence Reporting Directive: A move to prevent pro-actively air accidents, 19 December 2012
- European Corporate Just Culture Declaration
- Regulation 376/2014 on reporting, analysis and follow-up of occurrences in civil aviation (Official Journal of the European Union, 3 April 2014); Available in the following languages: BG ES CS DA DE ET EL EN FR GA HR IT LV LT HU MT NL PL PT RO SK SL FI SV
- EP Working Document on Occurrence Reporting (de Veyrac);
- EP draft Report on Occurrence Reporting (de Veyrac);
- Proposal for an EU Occurrence Reporting Regulation (COM(2012) 776 final);
- Current EU Occurrence Reporting Directive 2003/42/EC;
- Commission Press Release & Explanatory Memorandum on ORR;
- Commission webpage on occurrence reporting & accident prevention;
- ECA Paper: EASA's Role in Occurrence Reporting.