$4 Billion in Damages

South Africa has taken steps to implement new safety standards and reduce a staggering annual figure for the ground handling industry.

Having recognized GSE, operators and the operating environment as important safety factors, ACSA has acted on them. In an attempt to drastically improve the safety and security of operations (aircraft, passengers, cargo and baggage handling), the terms and conditions of the tender were very stringent, including such measures as limiting the life span of GSE used, the prohibition of using second-hand or used GSE — only new GSE may be purchased — and prohibition of using casual or temporary staff by ground handlers.

Other terms include:
a. Proposed items of GSE that ground handling companies intend to purchase have to be approved by ACSA. All GSE will conform to the relevant IATA specifications.
b. Existing older equipment has to be phased out and replaced within a stipulated period.
c. Ground handling companies are now bound to implement adequate maintenance programs subject to audit by ACSA as and when required.
d. ACSA safety staff monitor use of and operations of GSE on the ramp and take strong action against anyone transgressing ACSA regulations.
e. All aviation training institutions conducting aviation-related subjects have to be approved by ACSA before being allowed to operate on the airport ramps.
f. No temporary staff may be employed in the future. Staff members must be appointed permanent staff members. This will assist in motivation of staff and, it is hoped, reduce accidents and pilferage.
g. Adherence to the labor laws with regard to hours worked must be reported, and the various companies will not be allowed to exceed the legal weekly hours worked for their staff members.
h. In conjunction with “e” above, only suitably trained GSE operators will be allowed to operate GSE. Refresher courses are mandatory and re-testing of operators will be carried out on a regular basis.
i. Very few, if any African airports experience snowy conditions on a frequent basis, however, employers are legally obliged to provide employees with suitable personal protective equipment to cater for the weather conditions experienced at the relevant airports.
j. ACSA has earmarked substantial budgets for upgrading of its airports to include improved working conditions, e.g. lighting, apron upgrade, repairs, etc., as a part of its upgrade programs and also in anticipation of the 2010 soccer World Cup to be held in South Africa.
k. OR Tambo International Airport is now fully A380 compatible.

It should be noted that the changes being implemented are not limited to ground handling alone; this article only covers ground handling aspects. All other aspects that will influence safety and security are also being devised and implemented.

Past criticisms of shortcomings in safety and efficiency factors are justified, however, initiatives and action plans to rectify these shortcomings have been and are being devised and implemented. Unfortunately, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

A recent spate of aircraft-related incidents has also highlighted the need for improved safety and higher standards in Africa. To this end, the Civil Aviation Authority has tightened up on safety matters. In a recent incident, where an engine separated from a B737-200 on take off, all B737-200 operators’ aircraft were grounded pending inspections and re-certification. All incidents are being closely investigated and where carriers are found to be lacking, severe penalties are being imposed. One example of this is a South African airline, which had its entire fleet grounded Nov. 30, 2007, as they had not complied with an instruction given by the CAA.

ACSA has pledged to develop and improve all aspects on the aviation industry in South and even the rest of Africa. This is a daunting task, but one which is being addressed at the highest possible level.

South Africa has become a popular destination and the growth in air traffic is approximately 5.6 percent per annum. As a developing country, the aim is to ensure that our airports are at least on a par with, if not better than, world-class airports in so far as service to the traveling public is concerned with focused attention to safety and compliance with international standards, such as IATA, SAE, WHO, ISO and ICAO.

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