ICAO wants safety data guards

 - March 22, 2007, 9:36 AM

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) assembly is expected to take action later this month on legal guidance for member states to protect safety-data-
collection systems while allowing for proper administration of justice.

The guidance would help nations protect from unwarranted use information collected under systems such as flight operational quality assurance programs and line operations safety audit programs.

In January 2003, the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) called for ICAO to develop a global strategic framework to prevent the threat of unwarranted criminal prosecution or disciplinary action from impeding the free flow of safety information to the aviation industry.

Stuart Matthews, president and CEO of the FSF, said, “We are pleased that ICAO continues to act positively on the foundation’s recommendations to ensure that unwarranted judicial proceedings do not impede the free flow of safety information.”

The ICAO Council drafted the resolution to be presented to the ICAO Assembly in Montreal when it convenes September 28 to October 8. The council said it was concerned by a trend toward safety information being used for disciplinary and enforcement actions and being admitted as evidence in judicial proceedings. It warned that the use of safety information for other than safety-related purposes might inhibit the provision of such information, with an adverse effect on aviation safety.

The resolution asks the assembly to instruct the council to develop appropriate legal guidance that will assist states in enacting national laws and regulations to effectively protect information from safety-data-collection systems, both mandatory and voluntary, while allowing for proper administration of justice in the state; and urges all contracting states to examine their existing legislation and adjust as necessary, or enact laws and regulations to effectively protect information from safety-data-collection systems based, to the extent possible, on the legal guidance developed by ICAO.

If adopted, the resolution would build upon existing ICAO provisions protecting specific accident records and incident records from admissibility in judicial proceedings.