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This page is part of an ECA archive. For more recent information, visit our campaign Reporting Matters, Safety Matters! 

Everybody recognises that safety information is the lifeblood of every aviation system. However, underreporting of safety incidents is still a very tangible phenomenon across the industry. When was the last time YOU filed a safety report?

The fear of prosecution or reprisals at company level after reporting an event is still very much present nowadays and it discourages aviation staff to report occurrences. The consequence: insufficient 

occurrence reporting, broken feed-back loop and reduced ability to pro-actively achieve safety improvements by learning from the past. This is why much effort is invested to encourage aviation professionals to report safety matters.

The new EU Occurrence Reporting Regulation is one key step in this direction as it sets a new framework to encourage and protect safety reporting by aviation professionals, including pilots.

Applicable as of 15 Nov 2015, this new piece of legislation requires aviation organisations in the EU to adopt and maintain a proactive Just Culture to facilitate the collection of key safety data and information and to protect the reports as well as the information.

But can we really expect any changes to the daily life of an airline pilots?


The new legislation in brief

The new Occurrence Reporting Regulation (EU Reg. 376/2014) is a comprehensive framework and a set of standards for reporting, collecting, storing, protecting and disseminating the relevant safety information. It also introduces requirements on information analysis and adoption of follow-up safety actions at national level.

What’s new?
  • Stricter and broader protection: not only the occurrence reporter is better protected against the inappropriate use of safety information but all people mentioned in the report. Of particular importance is that contract pilots benefit from the same confidentiality rules and the same protection regarding the misuse of information.
  • Internal company rules to implement Just Culture: Just Culture-related provisions constitute a central pillar of the new reporting system. This is why the Regulation specifies explicitly that airlines, after consulting their staff representatives, must adopt internal rules describing how ‘Just Culture’ principles are guaranteed and implemented within the organsiation. The Regulation also provides that each Member State will establish a body responsible for monitoring the implementation of Just Culture at company level, and to which employees  and contracted personnel may report alleged infringements to their rights.
  • Updated list of mandatory reporting items, including fatigue: see list here
  • Possibility to report directly to national authority or to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), instead of the airline: If, for whatever reason, the pilot prefers to report directly to the national civil aviation authority or to EASA, he or she is free to do so.
  • Voluntary reporting scheme: The new regulation creates two complementary reporting flows with the responsibilities for each organisation to also establish a voluntary reporting system. Through the mandatory reporting system, all occurrences, which may represent a significant hazard to aviation safety and fall into well-defined categories (see list), must be reported. If an event is not in the mandatory occurrence reporting list, but you do consider it might have safety implications, it can be reported voluntarily through a dedicated and separate system. As a rule of thumb – report every time, when in doubt.

Occurrence Reporting rule of thumb – report every time, when in doubt.

‘Just Culture’ - more than a catchphrase

‘Just Culture’ means creating an environment in which the employee will feel confident to speak up and raise a concern. An honest mistake, a mishap, or something that might have gone wrong, is first and foremost valuable information that must be shared with the rest of the community to allow for in the enhancement of aviation safety. But to share this information, pilots and aviation professionals at large need to trust the airline and to be confident they will not be ultimately disciplined for doing so. Just culture is often referred to as a “no blame culture”, which is very different from immunity, as gross negligence and willful misconduct are not tolerated. That’s also in essence what “fair” or “just” culture entails.

Just Culture definition in the Regulation

“A culture in which frontline operators or others are not punished for actions, omissions or decisions taken by them that are commensurate with their experience and training, but where gross negligence, willful violations and destructive acts are not tolerated.”

Why is it important to you as a pilot?

For you – as a pilot – the new Occurrence Reporting system means two things: Rights & Responsibilities.

It brings additional protection for the “reporter”: the one who is responsible for feeding the system will be protected against incrimination or attribution of blame. Although the reports won’t be anonymous, the Regulation requires the industry to ensure the appropriate confidentiality of the report, e.g. through a clear separation between the safety department handling the occurrence reports and the other departments of the company. The regulation also foresees a broader protection, including all persons mentioned in the reports. Particularly important is that the new reporting rules will also be applicable to self-employed and contract pilots. With the growing development of atypical forms of employment in Europe, it is important to have this category included.

But it also brings another important responsibility for you: to feed the aviation system with relevant information. This is key to understanding where the risks are, detecting ‘weak signals’ and emerging safety / hazard trends. Through this, you effectively contribute to the prevention of incidents and accidents. Without your input the system can’t work and won’t work.

Without your input the system can’t work and won’t work.