The FRAT as Part of the Continuous Improvement Process
A “Deeper Look at the FRAT” is a three part series follow-up to the article, “Is the FRAT Undermining your Safety Initiatives?“. If you haven’t already read the article, you may wish to do so.
Up to this point, our focus has been on the FRAT as a pre-departure risk tool. In this article, we shift the discussion to using the FRAT as part of the continuous improvement process.
|Comparing your data with your defined safety objective and performance goals should be a straightforward process.|
Continuous improvement is a systematic, long-term approach to bring about incremental changes with the intent of improving operational processes. In this case, improving the safety processes.
Maybe your organization already has a tool for strategic planning and process monitoring. If so, it may have a sophisticated name, such as, Deming Cycle, Six Sigma, Kaizen, Balanced Scorecard, Lean, Agile, etc.
You may also be familiar with one of the following planning and process improvement cycles:
- Plan – Do – Check – Act
- Assess – Plan – Implement – Evaluate
- Identify – Plan – Execute – Review
- Monitor – Analysis – Action – Review
- Vision – Linking – Planning – Learning
Without regard to your specific tool and its associated aphorism, each above method consists of closed-loop control elements. Each cycle has the central premise of establishing and monitoring performance goals, and subsequent intervention when necessary.
Performance goals need to be measurable. A performance goal has two elements, quantity and rate, such as how many and how often.
A structure might go something like, reduce this to that by this time, or improve this to that over this period. When you quantify and measure the results of your activities, you can set performance goals and track results over time.
Establishing performance goals
During the design and implantation of your Safety Management System, you [should have]:
- Analyzed and documented the interaction of your core and supporting processes (system description).
- Defined and documented your hazards and quantified their associated risks (risk analysis).
- Defined and documented your key risk areas, along with associated mitigation (safety risk profile).
- Defined and documented quantifiable goals (quantity and rate) used to determine the performance of your SMS (performance goals).
Linking the FRAT to Continuous Improvement
Assuming you have completed the appropriate SMS design and implementation steps, and designed your FRAT around your risk analysis and risk profile, tracking should be easy.
Your FRAT will indicate:
- Frequency of individual hazard exposure, which influences the probability of an event.
- Validity of hypothesis documented in your safety risk profile.
- Changes occurring within your system.
Comparing your data with your defined safety objective and performance goals should be a straightforward process.
This article series started with the discussion about how the FRAT may be undermining your safety initiatives. We briefly reviewed the fundamentals of hazard and risk analysis. The discussion moved to the critically important derivation of the risk values and the organizational tolerance for risk. We concluded with linking the FRAT to your continuous improvement processes.
The key takeaways from this series should include:
- Template values do not accurately represent your loss exposure.
- You are not safe to assume the risk values applied by an outside organization apply to your organization in an identical manner.
- Templates risk values are difficult to defend.
- Understanding the derivation of the risk values and the organizational tolerance for risk is critical to an effective FRAT.
- Arbitrarily assigning or accepting an unsubstantiated risk value, or modifying the risk threshold may present very serious operational consequences. Doing so may potentially:
- Hide substantial loss exposure associated with the operation.
- Send the message to frontline personnel that there may be a lack of management commitment to operational safety.
- Potentially devalue and undermine your safety initiatives as whole
As you design your FRAT consider the following:
- Do the risk values on your FRAT represent your organization’s actual tolerance for risk?
- What combined risk could have escalated further into an accident yesterday, had it already happened?
- What are your safety performance goals and how will your FRAT support them?
- How will your FRAT be deployed in the day-to-day operating environment?
- What message is your FRAT sending to your operating personnel?
- How will an administrative law judge rule in the event of a regulatory violation?
- What will the plaintiff’s attorney sell to a jury in the aftermath of an accident?
Without regard to the risk values or the risk threshold on your FRAT, the civil regulations specifically state that the pilot-in-command is responsible for safely operating of the aircraft. It is likely your operating manual reiterates this requirement. Nothing in the design or use of a FRAT should imply otherwise.
When developing your FRAT, keep in mind that it needs to be easy to use in the day-to-day operating environment. This is not to say its development should be haphazard.
Developing an effective FRAT, as with all your SMS tools, requires a sincere effort to develop verifiable processes. Anything less may undermine stakeholders confidence in management’s commitment to safety, especially in the aftermath of an unfortunate event.
Many organizations lack the time and/ expertise proper development. Don’t be afraid to get a little help from a qualified safety specialist.