Case study: Air Canada - aircraft turnround

The issue

Air Canada aircraft during turnround

The 'turnround' (ground handling) of an aircraft on the ramp is a complex and busy activity. Numerous people from various companies are all working in close proximity in a congested and hazardous environment. Their tasks, on occasions, are further hampered by such things as poor weather conditions, noise and time constraints.

An Aircraft Handling Manual will detail how to perform a task eg opening a cargo hold door, however it will not identify any additional risks that may be generated by others (eg service providers) working in the same area. The Aircraft Handling Manual can only be considered as a reference tool to performing a task and it is only through the process of joint risk assessment, task analysis and agreed processes and practices that the whole turnround can be safely managed.

The typical numbers of Air Canada employees involved with aircraft turnround at Heathrow Airport are:

  • 105 Ramp;
  • 117 Baggage;
  • 21 Aircraft Maintenance;
  • 37 Cabin Services;
  • 16 Ground Support Engineering;
  • 8 Weight and Balance;
  • Assorted Service Provider Personnel.

What we did

HSE guidance (publication HSG 209 'Aircraft turnround') suggests that a 'competent person' is in place to control and orchestrate the activities around an aircraft. Air Canada identified the 'Ramp Lead' as being the competent person, given the number of contractors likely to be around an aircraft all performing their separate functions at any time.

The Company undertook and documented a detailed analysis of the whole ramp operation in consultation with all our service providers. This process included checking existing arrangements, method statements and service providers demonstrating their ability to comply with our standard operating procedures. Joint risk assessments were undertaken where our own personnel were identified as working in conjunction with, or performing separate tasks, within the same areas as our service providers.

An example of this would be, an airline ramp crew working in conjunction with a cargo transportation service provider, off loading pallets of cargo from an aircraft. The analysis would detail items such as, who acts as banksman, who operates the controls associated with the ramp equipment etc.

When staff from two companies perform separate functions in the same area the task analysis would clarify, if needed, who, under what circumstances, will have priority over the operation and, or, the sequence in which the two tasks could be conducted simultaneously.

Air Canada with cargo loader

The improvements and benefits

The joint risk assessment and task analysis was identified as being an integral part of the turnround process and this has allowed us to establish an 'agreed process and practice' that has been signed off by Air Canada and all the service providers. This commits all parties to work safely together in a common workplace environment within the parameters of the documentation.

The Company has witnessed a steady, significant decline in accidents since the initial start of the turnround project. The whole consultation process with our personnel, unions and service providers has established clearer reporting lines with an improved understanding of everyone's requirements. This has considerably raised the whole safety profile with a noted positive effect on the safety culture of all parties associated with the turnround of our aircraft.

Ramps Previous 12 Month Reported Accidents Moving Average

Ramps Previous 12 Month Reported Accidents Moving Average

"HSE 209 has been extremely beneficial in assisting the Company develop a clear safety management system specifically designed to airside operations. The proactive strategy has enabled us to significantly improve key services to generate high standards of quality and dramatically improve the safety culture internally and externally."
Nick Luck: Manager Employee Relations, Safety & Environment – UK
Howard Lewis: Safety Support Manager

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Updated 2020-05-22