Helicopter EMS provider Air Evac Lifeteam has entered the third level of the FAA’s safety management system (SMS) voluntary pilot project. Air Evac has 110 bases in 15 states and has been enrolled in the pilot project since February 2010. Dave Hardin, Air Evac’s director of safety, characterizes the company’s participation in the pilot project as a “challenging, but beneficial, process in the interest of safety.” Air Evac is only the third Part 135 operator to progress beyond Level 2, according to the FAA.
Level 2, also known as the “reactive” phase of the project, pertains to the development and implementation of robust safety assurance and safety risk management processes. This level effectively prepares the company for further safety and quality systems, corrects potential deficiencies in safety management practices and develops a proactive process to identify and mitigate hazards before they result in an unwanted occurrence.
Level 3 will continue to focus on further enhancing the proactive and predictive processes and procedures. This will include implementation of a “just culture of safety” within the company, and the development of more robust quality assurance, analysis and quality improvement processes. “It’s all about measuring, assessing and analyzing, controlling and mitigating safety hazards,” said Hardin. Having an SMS is widely considered an industry best practice but is not yet mandated by the FAA. Air Evac’s SMS currently includes trend analysis, hazard reporting, a non-punitive employee reporting system, risk mitigation, internal evaluation programs, risk assessment and a flight/maintenance quality assurance program. This systemic approach to SMS has resulted in marked safety improvements at Air Evac in recent years, said Hardin.
Hardin said Air Evac was the first helicopter EMS provider to design and implement an enhanced, high-tech operational control center to assist its flight crews with timely and accurate weather information, flight risk assessment and risk-mitigation strategies.