Europe has started to implement Safety Management at the regional level in order to become more pro-active in the identification of hazards and with the ultimate goal of further reducing the already good safety record in the region. This activity complements the existing system of developing safety regulations, monitoring compliance with them and investigating accidents and serious incidents when they occur. The Safety Management processes at European level are described in the European Aviation Safety Programme (EASP). One of the key elements of Safety Management is managing safety risks, which means identifying hazards, assessing the risks and making decision on the best course of action to mitigate them. Industry organisations and States are also required to do this within the scope of the activities they have to manage. The regional approach complements national approaches offering a more efficient means of discharging States obligations for Safety Management in the EU’s aviation system.
At the European level this process is carried out in coordination with States and industry because they are part of one aviation system and documented in the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS). The EPAS is maintained and updated on a yearly basis by EASA.
The Plan identifies those areas in which coordinated action makes a difference in avoiding accidents and serious incidents, which is the ultimate goal that links all the activities together. The three areas of the Plan comprise systemic, operational and emerging issues.
The planning activity is supplemented by a reporting mechanism, in which progress on the actions is evaluated and also documented. This feedback loop ensures that the process to manage risks continuously improves.
The EPAS previously covered a five-year period, but with the release of the 2023-2035 version in January 2023 the coverage period was shortened to three years. The intent of the change is to create a better focus and faster, smoother implementation. The most recent edition was published in three volumes in January 2023:
Among the systemic issues within the Plan are the implementation of Safety Management principles in the States and across industry, along with the enablers of such implementation. These principles will have to be embedded in a system that is becoming more and more complex. The competence of personnel involved in aviation is also one of the systemic issues of the EPAS.
The operational issues cover the main risk areas that affect fixed wing commercial air transport operations:
These scenarios represent end states in the series of events that develop into a safety occurrence. Before they occur, usually other recoverable safety issues are triggered that reduce the available safety margin. Some of the operational issues affecting other types of operation like helicopters or general aviation are also addressed.
Actions to address issues that are emerging, like the introduction of new systems and types of operations, new regulatory and oversight approaches, environmental factors or the next generation of aviation professionals have been also identified in the Plan.
Human factors and human performance affect all the above areas and are addressed in a separate chapter of the EPAS.