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Organising safety: the safety management system

Organising safety: the safety management system


Assuring safety is skyguide’s main purpose. The safety culture within the company, and its safety management system, which is certified to European standards, form the basis for the provision of all its services. The safety management system is made up of different processes and tools. Here are the most important:


Assessment of safety risks (safety risk management)

The assessment of safety risks is a formal process. Through this process, skyguide ensures that the risks associated with planned or proposed changes to the air navigation services system are properly assessed and under control, and are within certain predefined limits. Only then are the relevant changes adopted.


Air navigation services systems are a complex network of interacting technologies, procedures and human factors. At skyguide, a group of international experts is constantly working on improving the understanding and evaluation of such systems. The task of these experts consists of identifying, analysing and assessing potential risks, and intervening where necessary.


Safety Risk Management at skyguide



In the Unit safety risk assessment, skyguide’s experts have developed a particular methodology for assessing entire operational units, which has been used successfully on many occasions.


The human factor

In a complex system, the individual is both the most unreliable and the most creative factor. Humans commit errors, but they are also capable of solving unforeseen problems. Skyguide therefore strives to understand the human component within the air navigation services system as a whole, and then to address any influences and factors that affect human performance, either positively or negatively. This way of handling the human factor yields greater efficiency, nurtures the skills that are unique to humans, and raises levels of operational safety and performance within what is nowadays an extremely complex and safety-critical system.


The experts in the “Human Factors” team – all trained in psychology, human factors engineering and/or ergonomics – work on a daily basis with our air traffic controllers, engineers and project managers. Their support is particularly valuable in the event of system changes and with innovation generally.


Skyguide is currently focusing on the strategic direction of its future operating concept. What will its operations look like in ten or twenty years? What kinds of automation are possible that will assist humans? What will be the efficiency gains?


Skyguide’s “Human Factors” unit also proactively supports operations in assuring the health, comfort and motivation of staff in areas such as ergonomics, the design of the workplace, the planning of breaks and combatting tiredness and stress, as well as in the investigation of incidents.



Reporting and investigation

A confidential reporting system provides a constructive environment in which to address weaknesses. All operational and technical incidents are disclosed and dealt with in a way that enables improvements to be made where necessary. Internal investigations are important sources of investigation, and therefore invariably result in improvements to safety.


An independent critical-incident stress management programme has been established, which offers psychological support to all employees following a stressful incident. A network of over 50 trained peers is available for them to turn to and, through talking in confidence with the person of their choice, to regain emotional stability.


In the case of serious incidents, a special procedure developed together with the staff associations applies, which protects customers, personnel and skyguide itself from recurrence. The air traffic controllers who experience such an incident are immediately relieved from duty and receive support from trained personnel before returning to work whenever possible. Skyguide conducts internal investigations into the causes of all serious incidents and assists the authorities in their work in the event of an external investigation.


The safety management system and the Just Culture on which it is based are inspected by CANSO, Eurocontrol, EASA and the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation. Since the system was introduced, skyguide has achieved each of its more strategic target values earlier than planned, and has often exceeded them. What is particularly important here is not just the attainment of the required level of readiness, but the fact that skyguide is still able to go on improving.


The safety management system is inspected annually by independent bodies. Since the system was introduced, skyguide has achieved each of its more strategic target values earlier than planned, and has often exceeded them.