It was a milestone moment for CHC when we became the first offshore operator to adopt LOSA across our global activities in 2016.
It represented another big step forward in our pursuit of continuous improvement in safety – and it’s equally satisfying to see us moving the agenda forward again in more recent times.
In essence, LOSA is a system in which trained line pilots act as passive observers during operational flights, pinpointing areas of both strength and weakness. It’s become an invaluable tool for us, empowering us to gauge normal operations to provide data on what’s done well and where there are high-value opportunities to improve.
A concept that has its roots in commercial fixed wing operations in the 1990s, LOSA was subsequently remodelled for rotary wing application – first for onshore emergency medical services (EMS) missions, then for offshore operations.
As an operator in the vanguard of its offshore deployment, our first cycle of LOSA observations – in Scotland, England and the Netherlands – was followed by another encompassing our oil & gas and EMS missions in Australia.
The latter represented an early ‘proof of concept’-style exercise on taking LOSA further by applying it to offshore EMS/SAR activities. It was a successful trial, demonstrating its feasibility – but highlighting where more work was needed to ensure its efficacy. More on that specific area of work in a moment.
We subsequently completed another, and highly successful, cycle in our Brazilian offshore operations. That took us to the stage where we’d accumulated three data points within our own business, providing the basis for us to look with confidence for themes, trends and comparators.
The process of exploring further the possibilities of LOSA was disrupted by the impact of COVID-19 – but, after the inevitable delays, we’re now very much back on the front foot. Specifically, we’re currently in the midst of our latest cycle, focused on our SAR contract with the Irish Coast Guard – and it’s presenting another opportunity to broaden our LOSA horizons.
First of all, it’s enabling us to do more around proving it as a cockpit concept in SAR, and these final trials will hopefully be a prelude to having it rolled out across our other SAR bases in the near future.
More than that, however, we’re using these observations for an industry-first exploration of how we might broaden LOSA to incorporate rear crew operations. Again, pushing the boundaries of this safety programme a little further.
A proactive approach
LOSA is based on the principle of Threat and Error Management: threats are external to the pilot’s influence – factors such as weather or other aircraft – while errors relate to issues internal to the cockpit.
Two key elements emerge from the proactive, and entirely anonymised, LOSA process: a record of any event – either a threat or error – and, equally importantly, a description of the event in the observer’s own words. Together, they can be hugely powerful in telling us what actually happened.
The information from individual observations comes together in a wider database, ultimately enabling our Global Standards team at CHC to undertake detailed analysis work as they look to extract any learnings.
The recorded data of course directs us to potential areas of interest – the repeated occurrence of a specific type of event will become evident through the data – but the descriptions add a new level of detail, context and colour to provide a much clearer picture of the event. In effect, by zoning in on the descriptions we might see common themes emerging, and that is empowering in terms of taking steps to address them.
It’s important to stress this is all about assessing normal operations – while a single event in itself could merit further exploration, this is not about compliance. The real value stems from identifying a similar event in a succession of data points, which can create a compelling case for change.
Setting new standards
In a wider safety context, the data we receive from LOSA is used to help set the agenda for our Global Standards team – with the emphasis very much on the global aspect.
Since 2011 we’ve had in place a centralised Global Standards organisation, which equips us to glean maximum value from LOSA because of the power of harmonisation: information from any LOSA cycle can yield benefits for our entire organisation.
The bottom line, of course, is greater safety assurance for our passengers and crews, and one of the many positive features of the LOSA programme has been the welcome it has received from customers. They have been invariably pleased to engage with us in its deployment, and we’re at the stage where it’s now becoming part of the standard operating and contracting environment in the offshore industry.
Indeed the latest version of the recommended practices documentation for offshore aviation from the highly influential International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) signals that LOSA cycles should be included in contractual agreements.
That in itself represents further consolidation of LOSA as part of the offshore helicopter services safety environment. We’re pleased to be playing a leading part in broadening its application possibilities for the wider industry – and at the same time demonstrating CHC’S commitment to achieve ever-greater safety standards across our organisation.