Research Projects

Guide for Safety Investigations and Root Cause Analysis at Airports

Create a guidebook for airport operators that outlines the elements and procedures for conducting an effective safety investigation. The research would provide airport leadership the knowledge and tools to properly investigate safety incidents so as to identify safety hazards, their root cases, and the human factors behind undesired outcomes.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

When accidents or incidents occur at an airport, whether on the airside of the landside, investigations are typically conducted by members of law enforcement assigned to the airport, or perhaps by members of the fire department if they were called to respond. Studies performed in support of other ACRP projects and airport safety management system (SMS) gap analyses have shown that the quality of airport safety investigations is often lacking. While the investigations adequately record the events immediately preceding the incidents and the outcomes, investigation findings are too often lacking in the data needed to accurately identify the root causes of the incidents, and particularly the human factors involved. The lack of important data from investigations, particularly those conducted following a near miss, make the job of effectively managing safety on the airport challenging.
While some of the airports that are early adopters of SMS have sent safety personnel to specified training to learn investigative and root cause analysis techniques, not all airport have the budget or size of staff to provide such advanced training. Providing the airport industry with a guide to conducting effective safety investigations and root cause analysis in safety investigations will add greatly to effective safety management, aid in the resolution of deficiencies in airport safety processes, and enhance efforts to improve airport safety performance.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

A report that outlines elements and procedures for conducting effective safety investigations with a focus on the available tools and knowledge to identify safety hazards, their root cases, and the human factors behind undesired outcomes.

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Idea No. 351