Airside accident rates above UK average – what can you do about it?

All too often, we hear airside businesses across the UK saying that only the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will investigate in the event of an airside accident.  This means that often only CAA guidance is adhered to.  However, this is a common misconception.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) can and do investigate airside incidents! Therefore, failure to follow HSE recommendations not only puts people in danger, but also leaves airside operators open to large potential fines in the event of an accident and subsequent HSE investigation.

It’s all too easy to think “it will never happen to us”, but serious incidents do occur and result in fines. Such as this recent case where a baggage handler was left seriously injured after a fall of more than two meters from an aircraft.

Following this incident, the HSE’s stance on airside accidents was made very clear with this statement:

“Airports are busy and complex workplaces where workers face many hazards, particularly from the movement and operation of aircraft and vehicles. Currently, accident rates in the industry are well above the national average for all industries. Companies should assess the risks to their own and others’ employees and put in place measures to control these risks.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

Airside safety and training

Training plays an enormously important role in airside safety.  Many of the airside incidents that we hear of could have been avoided if the correct training and operating practices were in place. For instance, following the practices set out in the RTITB Airside hi-loader course could have helped prevent the incident mentioned previously.

And this isn’t just important for airports in the UK who could be fined by HSE. Regardless of where your operation is based and what the local legislation is, safety should always be of the utmost importance.

So how can your airside operation ensure that your training stands up to scrutiny in the event of a ground handling equipment incident? And how can you improve overall operational safety?

Here are a few recommendations from RTITB Airside.

  1. Standardize your training

Some operations are delivering non-standardized training, which may differ between sites or from session to session. Or they may be delivering all their training through only one Instructor who is in sole control of the training materials – what happens if they’re ever sick or decide to move on?

By delivering standardized ground support equipment training, you can ensure that your training content is of consistent high quality no matter where it is delivered, or which trained Instructor it is delivered by.

Working with organizations involved in airside operations at airports throughout the world, we have also seen that standardized training results in improved efficiency, accuracy, and of course, safety throughout the operation.

Our experts at RTITB Airside can help develop tailored airside equipment training courses so that you can ensure that all operators have the same high level of skill for safe ground support equipment operations.

RTITB Airside also provides Airside Equipment Instructor training that can help you ensure consistently high operator training standards.

  1. Take non-aircraft incidents seriously

Vehicle-to-vehicle airside incidents (and vehicle-to-infrastructure incidents) are often not recorded or treated with the same gravity as vehicle to aircraft incidents.

Ignoring them will not only result in reduced ground handling equipment efficiency but a poor effect on airside safety culture.

If you see damage to vehicles and equipment but little evidence of incident reports relating to the damage, there is potentially a weakness in your reporting and post-incident analysis processes, which should be tackled to prevent escalation.

The correct processes for checking equipment before use and reporting causes for concern should all be communicated during ground support equipment training.

  1. If you see something, say something!

In our experience providing consultancy for global airports, we have seen time and again that airside operations that encourage a team ethic and open communication are not only happier and more productive, but also safer.

As a ground handling operator, you should create an environment where your airside operatives are encouraged to speak up if they see anything happening that could affect safety.

In the short term this can help prevent airside accidents, and in the long term it can help support process improvements and efficiency gains.

  1. Supervise and intervene

When it comes to improving safety and efficiency, delivering ground handling equipment operator training should not be the final step in the process.

Pro-active supervision, by trained managers and supervisors, not only increases safety on the ramp but also helps identify any developing issues that can be effectively tackled through early intervention. Remedial training can then be delivered before safety breaches lead to an incident.

RTITB Airside Training Consultancy

For help with planning, creating, delivering or auditing airside vehicle and GSE driver training, the RTITB Airside team can help.

Wherever you are in the world, the expert team can provide support with airside inspection and ground handling audit services, standardized airside equipment Instructor training, bespoke airside vehicle operator training courses, and more.

Get in touch to find out more.