Aviation Safety Letter 2/2004
The ASL Interview - Corey Nordal, Aviation Safety Officer with Northern Air Operations (NAO)
by Thomas T. Umscheid, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, System Safety, Prairie and Northern Region
Mr. Corey Nordal is the Aviation Safety Officer with NAO, which is a branch of the Saskatchewan Government's Department of Environment and Resource Management known as "Saskatchewan Environment." NAOs main function is to supply tankers, along with various light twins used for Bird Dog operations and personnel transport. They have approximately 95 employees, including about 30 pilots and 35 aircraft maintenance engineers (AME).
ASL: How long have you had a safety program in place?
Corey Nordal (C.N.): We started our safety program back in about 1991, when we were a Part 604 operator, and in about 2001 we began to set up the formal safety management system (SMS). We now operate with an O.C. [operator's certificate] under Part 702 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) and technically don't require an SMS, but since we had already established one, we decided to carry on with it.
ASL: Did you see any difference when you switched to SMS?
C.N.: No, not really, there weren't any big changes; the basic differences were the details in the reporting structure. We added some more people to our safety committee.
ASL: On your Web site there is a Safety Policy Statement, does that apply just to NAO or is that for all of Saskatchewan Environment?
C.N.: There are actually two policy statements; the first one was created as a result of the formation of our Department (Saskatchewan Environment) aviation safety committee, and it applies to the whole Department. The second one is our own policy as an air operator, and NAO adheres to both the overall policy and our own specific policy.
ASL: Where do you fit into the management structure of your branch?
C.N.: Well, as the safety officer under the old safety reporting system, I reported directly to the operations manager, but now under the new SMS I'm the secretary of the safety committee, and I report to the chief pilot with any concerns that I may have. As well, I can pass on any safety concerns that are raised by the staff to the appropriate manager. As an example, if some of the engineering staff report a concern to me, I would discuss it with the chief of engineering and the quality assurance manager. Basically I have access to all of the managers, and any of them could implement a safety recommendation that I made concerning their area of management.
ASL: If you felt at odds with the chief pilot over an issue would you be able to discuss the matter with someone else?
C.N.: Yes, I could go directly to the operations manager.
ASL: Could you tell me a bit more about the safety committee?
C.N.: The committee is made up of 15 members, including myself. Basically there is one pilot representing each of the five flight groups, and there is a representative from each of the other groups such as engineering, flight watch, air attack, trades and ground crew. The operations manager, air attack officer, chief engineer and chief pilot also sit on the committee.
ASL: How often does the committee meet?
C.N.: There are scheduled meetings every six weeks, but there could be other meetings if something comes up that requires a meeting. For example, if an incident or an accident occurs, or if something else comes up that requires a meeting, we'll gather all the information that we can and then we'll call the committee together and try to resolve that problem.
ASL: Who investigates accidents or incidents in your company?
C.N.: Myself and the quality assurance manager do the investigations. In the event of an accident, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) would be the lead investigators and we would cooperate fully with them. For an incident, if it is aircraft-related, I usually rely on the quality assurance manager or engineering to come up with a detailed report in the matter. If it involves actual firefighting in the field, I follow up on the incident myself and interview the aircrew, or any others that may be involved.
ASL: Is there a formal "safety training" for the pilots or other employees?
C.N.: Initially, when we first started the Web site and the SMS, we gave a briefing to all the staff, and now for any new employees we give them a briefing on how to use the system, who to report to and so on. The initial attack crews, fire managers and aviation managers on large fires are briefed by the person in Prince Albert, Sask., that is my counterpart on the fire management side.
ASL: Does the Internet reporting method allow for confidential reports?
C.N.: When a person files a report through the Web site, it comes directly to me, then I take the name off of the top before I send it on to anyone else. I also get back to them and let them know what happened with the report. If someone really didn't want to have their name known at all, I would act on a sheet of paper dropped off at my desk. In that case I wouldn't be able to get back to them though.
ASL: Has that actually happened, that is, have you gone through that whole cycle?
C.N.: Yes, we've had several reports go through the whole system like that.
ASL: Do you have an aviation safety inspection program?
C.N.: Yes, we brought that in with the implementation of the SMS, and we did the audits and reported them online. This year we're trying to streamline the forms and have the people do the audits for the place where they are actually working. This gets more people involved and gives them an idea of the regulations and what should be around their workplace. The reports from the groups all go on the Web site and I review them and pass on any deficiencies to the appropriate managers, who in turn fix the problems. Once the corrections are done, the managers advise me, and I forward the complete report, with dates and so on, to the operations manager.
ASL: What benefits have you seen from having a safety program since 1991?
C.N.: I think the biggest benefit has been employee participation, everyone in the organization knows that it's there, and they do use it. In turn, we act on the reports they submit.
ASL: What would you say was your greatest challenge in being a safety officer?
C.N.: Trying to stay active, to keep an active program in place, trying to avoid apathy. If we're doing fine and not having major problems, it's hard to keep a good mental attitude about promoting safety.
ASL: Do you encounter any resistance from the employees, for example do they feel you are getting them to do things that don't need to be done?
C.N.: No, I don't think they feel that way, at least they haven't told me. We try to make the reporting system as simple as possible. With the Web site, they report it once and then they are done with it. Then its up to us to act on it and eventually give feedback to the employees.
ASL: What do you see in the future for your safety program?
C.N.: We'd like to see the use of our system expanded, not only more use by our employees but we'd like to see other branches in Saskatchewan Environment make use of our program or develop similar SMS programs for aviation activities of their own. If the whole department could operate as safely as possible we'd be doing a good job.
ASL: Is there anything you would like to add that I didn't ask you about?
C.N.: If anyone wants to find out more about our system they can contact me anytime by phone at 306-425-4585 or by e-mail at CNordal@serm.gov.sk.ca.
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