Raising the Bar for Safety

A look at the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) program

Conducting the Audits
IATA has decided to carry out ISAGO audits using a pool of auditors — drawn from existing airline resources conducting such audits — to carry out audits at the airport station level. Unlike existing ground handling audit programs, ISAGO audits will be conducted also at the headquarters level. Here, a combination of resources will be used. Existing accredited IOSA Audit Organizations — with their particular skills in auditing organization and management systems, will be the basis of the headquarter-level audit. They will then be paired with airline resources in order to provide continuity with the station audits. Assembling and managing the ISAGO Auditor Pool will be undertaken by IATA, which already has a track record of managing pool audits with both the IATA Fuel Quality Pool (IFQP) and De/Anti-icing Quality Control Pool (DAQCP). This pool management experience will be valuable and the ISAGO Pool will bring its own nuances and complexity, most notably the sheer scale of the number of audits needed to be programmed. Ultimately, we see the potential not only to bring the management of these pool programs together, but to see how best to integrate the standards and the programs themselves with ISAGO.

Auditor Training
IATA’s Training and Development Institute conducts the core training component — the ISAGO Auditor Training Course. This course has been structured to take experienced ground auditors and familiarize them with the ISAGO principles, practices and standards. Having all ISAGO auditors working to a common standard and philosophy will be a great improvement in and of itself. The ISAGO Program Manual also lays down strict pre-requisites for ISAGO auditors, including not only successful completion of this training course, but also conducting initial audits under the supervision of an evaluator, before being released to “fly solo.”

Training for Ground Service Providers
Training for ground service providers on ISAGO generally, and on the standards themselves, is also available. Training dates that have been published to date are already filling up (see www.iata.org/itdi).

Trial Audits
Thirteen trial audits were conducted from late October 2007 to the end of January 2008. These trial audits were needed in order to assess the “auditability” of the standards that have been devised, how long an audit will last, how many auditors are required, and so on. The results from these trials are now being assimilated to identify any changes and improvements to be incorporated prior to the first real ISAGO audits in mid-2008. We had a great response from ground service providers volunteering both headquarters and airport stations to be audited, and we had great commitment from airlines contributing auditors to actually conduct the audits.

Regulatory and Airport Authorities
Unlike areas of higher focus, such as flight safety, there is comparatively little in the way of government regulation for ground handling activities. Traditionally, the responsibility for the safety oversight of ground handling companies has devolved to the airlines themselves, who are held accountable. Inconsistencies in approach and differences in regulatory regimes have resulted in much less safety improvement. It’s not surprising therefore that interest in ISAGO is coming from many regulators, and from ICAO itself.

The concept of industry-led audit programs delivering safety improvement opportunities that regulators can take advantage of has been pioneered in IOSA. At the 35th ICAO Assembly, in the Resolution on Safety Oversight, States were encouraged to make use of all available data, such as that from IOSA, in the execution of their safety oversight responsibilities. At the 2007 assembly, IATA positioned ISAGO as a program delivering similar opportunities for States. But it doesn’t take an ICAO Assembly for forward-thinking States to recognize a good idea and act on it. We’ve had great involvement and support from a number of key regulatory authorities from the start, and that support just keeps on growing.

Other authorities are gathering in support of ISAGO as well. Many airports have expressed interest in being involved in ISAGO, by building ISAGO requirements into their own operating regulations, and perhaps even requiring ground handling companies at their airports to go through the program. Airports Council International is represented on the ISAGO Project Coordination Group.

Program Launch
The team to run the ISAGO program is now assembling in Montreal, well in time to prepare for the first audits in mid-2008. As to how many audits might be conducted in 2008, IATA’s board has set a minimum target of eight headquarter audits and 60 station audits. But the program has the potential to go ‘exponential’ quite quickly. It will take just one or two of the bigger handling companies to say “Do all my stations,” and we could quickly run into large figures indeed. We will be geared up for much bigger audit numbers in 2009 and beyond. ISAGO audits will be conducted at two-year intervals at the headquarter level, and the same frequency has been set initially for the airport station audits, unless there is a conclusion that particular stations would need a more frequent audit. The production side of the house will need to stay focused to deliver, and we will need to ensure our quality assurance and quality control resources have sufficient capacity.

We Recommend