Collection and Analysis of Safety Data

Any data about aviation operations that can be used to learn how to improve safety, can be considered "safety data."  HP insights gathered from safety data can provide information on how the humans in the system contributed, both positively and negatively, to the various outcomes, and importantly – why they acted the way they did. This information could suggest important improvements to the design of technology, procedures, and training, as well as help identify regulatory gaps.  Moreover, such information is critical in the identification of systemic issues and could lead to significant system-level improvements beyond minor adjustments to procedures or training.

Learning to improve safety, and therefore also improve effectiveness, efficiency and overall system performance, should draw on all possible sources of operational data.  Operational data can and should be collected from day-to-day operations to identify possible hazards and to improve mitigations or work practices.  Collection of this kind of safety data requires engaging with frontline personnel to identify issues and fix them collectively. This allows organisations to engage in very proactive safety management activities, such as risk assessing their compliance audit findings and performing hazard identification workshops. However, more often, detailed safety data are only collected after some safety occurrence, whether that safety occurrence is an accident, an incident, or a close call (aka a "near event").  This section focuses mainly on the collection of operational safety data and its analysis and interpretation from an HP perspective. 

Further information on HP considerations when collecting and analyzing data, whether following a safety occurrence or not, can be found in the HP Manual for Regulators (Doc 10151).

1. What are some sources of people-generated safety data?

2. What influences enable people to report or prevent people from reporting safety concerns?

Because having data is a prerequisite for learning and for any safety improvements, and because people-generated data provides the "HOW and WHY information," it is critical that people do generate such data. Whether organizations or individuals are willing to report their experiences and errors is largely dependent on the perceived benefits and risks associated with reporting. The key to this is maximizing the ease of reporting while minimizing the anxiety of reporting.

3. HP insights gained from analysing sfety occurrence data

When analyzing the human contribution to safety outcomes, particular care must be exercised to avoid viewing the outcome as more predictable than it really was (hindsight bias). It must be remembered that in most cases, there are numerous people involved in the lead up to a safety occurrence, that people do what makes sense to them at the time, and that these people do not know what the outcome will be. Analysts should pay close attention to the HP Principles and to understanding the operational context when seeking to understand human performance and the choices people made during what later turned out to be a “safety occurrence.” Human error is a term usually assigned post-occurrence to a behaviour, even if that behaviour made sense at the time. Labeling acts as human errors and counting how many were made does little to improve safety.

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