A Systems Approach to Measuring Safety Performance – The Regulator Perspective

A Systems Approach to Measuring Safety Performance – The Regulator Perspective


The purpose of measuring safety performance is to assess how well the aviation system is able to manage safety risks and where necessary to take action to build up and improve that capability. Measuring the wrong aspects of safety performance at the wrong levels is akin to simply identifying the disease and ignoring the symptoms.

This is the basic premise of this paper. It presents a regulator-level view of where metrics need to be developed to tell us what the highest risks are and whether or not risks in the entire system —regulatory, service provider and inherent systemic risks— are being controlled effectively and in a predictive manner. The aviation system has many distinct but overlapping parts. Developing effective metrics requires an understanding of the system and the risks in individual processes in the areas of design, manufacturing, operations, airspace/air navigation, airworthiness, and training. Measurements must be able to identify existing and emerging risks in each of these overlapping parts and to monitor them to see whether regulatory actions have an effect on controlling or eliminating hazards.

For many years, regulators have used regulation, including certification and design assurance, to control risk. Surveillance and accident investigation support this regulation. However, regulation cannot control all risks; not all hazards can be identified by regulators. Further gains in safety must rely on structured, systematic hazard identification and control at the individual process level. Therefore, the role of the regulator must evolve from one of ensuring pure compliance, to prescriptive regulations, to one of monitoring its understanding of causes and contributing factors of failure in the aviation system.

This paper presents a model and its related framework for performance indicator development to guide regulators in identifying issues of common interest to the regulator and service provider as an integral part of their safety management.

The model is built on three tiers: regulator performance indicators (Tier 3), those of service providers (Tier 2), and safety outcome indicators (Tier 1). The objective of the model is to introduce a systems approach to measuring safety performance for effective safety management.

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