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REPCON confidential reporting means safer flying

Australian aviation would be less safe without the means to confidentially report issues of concern.

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“We have a powerful reporting culture in Australia,” says Elaine Hargreaves, the woman at the end of the line for the ATSB’s confidential reporting system known as REPCON.

“Whenever there is an incident or accident, the vast majority of operators will inform the ATSB, as required by law.

“REPCON differs from regular reporting in that it allows people with concerns about unsafe procedures, practices and conditions to inform the ATSB without being identified.

“It’s not dobbing. This is about solving issues and problems that could otherwise lead to compromised safety.”

Elaine says people contact REPCON because they know they can speak their mind without fear of recrimination, discipline or punishment from their employer, their union or their peers.

In April 2016 a reporter contacted REPCON to express a safety concern about flight crew exceeding the amount of time they’re allowed to fly on a regular basis.

The operator strenuously denied the allegation, saying they were anonymous and so non-specific that they could not realistically be investigated. The operator did however review its fatigue risk management requirements and discussed fatigue risks with pilots.

CASA, as the regulator, reviewed the REPCON and would consider the information provided as part of planned surveillance. CASA also encouraged the complainant to contact CASA’s confidential safety risk line to provide more specific details.

In January 2016 a reporter expressed a safety concern about fatigue management procedures for a ground operations controller.

It was a safety-critical role filled by one individual on an 11-hour shift allegedly with no rostered breaks. There was a risk that incorrect fuel and freight figures would be used due to the controller’s fatigue.

The operator subsequently undertook a detailed fatigue analysis, reviewed ground operations controller rosters and provided a report outlining follow-up.

CASA reviewed the matters raised in the REPCON and noted the operator’s response did not take into consideration reporting through the organisation’s safety management systems (SMS). Using the SMS can help identify areas where the operator should focus resources to reduce operations risk, including fatigue risk. CASA addressed the matter with the operator.

“These are just a few examples and many more can be found on the ATSB website,” says Elaine. “People don’t always like being told to change their system but the changes that are implemented out of REPCON reports are usually mutually beneficial to reporters and operators.

“We’re not trying to replace existing reporting systems but sometimes a confidential, external system is required because people may feel uncomfortable about being identified.”

Anyone involved in flight operations, and even passengers, can report a safety concern.

If you have any information which you consider may affect aviation safety contact REPCON on 1800 020 505 or submit a report online.

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Last update 20 December 2016