Mum's The Word?

This issue's cover story mentions a safety organization in the United Kingdom known by a rather supernatural acronym, GHOST.

Not that there’s anything too mysterious with the stated objective of the Ground Handling Operations Safety Team. A voluntary partnership, originally established by the Civil Aviation Authority, the team of 50 members hopes to identify and reduce the risks associated with ground handling operations.

But GHOST did uncover what surely strikes terror in our hearts: We don’t like to admit mistakes, ours or yours.



Annie Gilbert from the CAA wrote last October in Airport Focus, about the low incident reporting rates by air-side workers.

“GHOST highlighted a culture amongst ground handling that tended to apportion blame and discouraged open reporting of incidents,” Gilbert wrote. “This was an issue that was well known and well documented within safety investigations, and appeared to be accepted practice, not just in the UK but worldwide.”

The CAA has tracked accidents/incidents for more than 30 years and contains details of hundreds of thousands of incidents, from minor technical and mechanical failures to fatal accidents.

“The information that can be extracted from the database proves invaluable in plotting risks and trends, allowing operators to take action before a serious incident occurs,” she wrote. “It is vital that ground handling crews ... understand that the sole objective of the reporting of safety events is to prevent further accidents and incidents through the improved collection and sharing of safety information. It is not to attribute blame or liability.”

To encourage ground service providers to report such data, GHOST has developed a “Just Culture” program to promote an open exchange of reporting. In addition, GHOST signed up with Air Safety Central, a web-based safety culture tool that allows members to post, review and discuss safety –related data. GHOST plans to publish other safety guidelines to assist ground service providers to implement a Just Culture.

And if you are attending this year’s IGHC, one key seminar will discuss “Just Culture – From Concept To Reality,” featuring Andy Fletcher, ground safety manager for Flybe, and current chairman of GHOST.

“Risks can only be identified and managed if knowledge is shared,” Gilbert wrote. “This sharing and reporting culture must pervade an organization. Open reporting, ultimately, helps all parties involved in the aircraft turn-around process appreciate and understand where the risks are within the air-side environment.”