SMS Jargon and Collecting Predictive Data

For most airline and airline-related service organizations, an SMS can be a formalization of the many safety programs already in place


Understanding LOSA

Line Operations Safety Assessments (LOSA) require employee involvement to identify safety threats to areas of ramp operations. LOSA is a way for employees to observe one another’s work. Although it is peer-to-peer observation, it is a formal process.

It’s not new. Since the late 1990s, LOSA has evolved in flight operations and is widely used today. Line pilots, for example, train to be LOSA observers, fly jump seat and observe the crew. The observer looks for excellent performance, but also observes whether threats and errors are present. The observer is trained not to interfere with normal operations unless there is grave danger to people or property.

Those being observed know that the LOSA is not a classic “audit” and that LOSA data cannot attribute actions to an individual or crew. LOSA is a formal employee system that does real-time risk assessment using the threat and error management model.

The LOSA system for ramp is very different from that used on the flight deck. The philosophy and principles are the same, but the flight deck relies on open-ended text to record the observations.

The ramp LOSA, on the other hand, uses structured observation checklists. The system for ramp comes complete with ready-to-use database and data analysis tools that are kept with the operator. There is no need for outside data storage and analysis. This ensures that company data are secure and that analysis does not require external consultants.

The graphic on page 29 shows the characteristics of the LOSA systems used for maintenance and for ramp environments. It is a systematic means for observation of normal operations. The peer-trusted observers, as well as those observed, participate in LOSA as volunteers.

LOSA is a joint effort by company management and labor to recognize early indications of threats and errors. Sometimes LOSA can be targeted to assess known challenges. In any case, the standards for confidentially always apply.

Implementation Requires Support

LOSA implementation requires strong support from corporate leadership and from the workforce. It requires resources for personnel, training, data analyses, etc. The return on these investments includes an enhanced SMS program, new knowledge of daily risk, and an increase in efficiency and continuing safety. A return on investment tool is under development for use with the LOSA systems.

The development team of government and industry has developed and tested all necessary materials to support the implementation of LOSA for ramp. That includes training documents and manuals, data collection and analyses forms and software, and materials to promote LOSA to the workforce.

Dr. William Johnson has spent more than 30 years as senior executive and scientist for engineering companies specializing in technical training and human factors before joining FAA in 2004. He is also an aviation maintenance technician and a pilot, and has been for more than 45 years.

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