Threat and error management
Threat and error management (TEM) is an overarching safety management approach that assumes that pilots will naturally make mistakes and encounter risky situations during flight operations. Rather than try to avoid these threats and errors, its primary focus is on teaching pilots to manage these issues so they do not impair safety. Its goal is to maintain safety margins by training pilots and flight crews to detect and respond to events that are likely to cause damage (threats) as well as mistakes that are most likely to be made (errors) during flight operations.
TEM allows crews to measure the complexities of a specific organization's context — meaning that the threats and errors encountered by pilots will vary depending upon the type of flight operation — and record human performance in that context. TEM also considers technical (e.g. mechanical) and environmental issues, and incorporates strategies from Crew Resource Management to teach pilots to manage threats and errors.
The TEM framework was developed in 1994 by psychologists at University of Texas based on the investigation of accidents of high capacity Regular Public Transport (RPT) airlines. However, an evaluation method was needed to identify threats and errors during flight operations and to add information to existing TEM data. A Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA) serves this purpose and involves the identification and collection of safety-related information — on crew performance, environmental conditions, and operational complexity — by a highly trained observer. LOSA data is used to assess the effectiveness of an organization's training program and to find out how trained procedures are being implemented in day-to-day flights.
Importance of TEM
Threat and error management is an important element in the training of competent pilots that can effectively manage in-flight challenges. Many strategies have been developed (e.g. training, teamwork, reallocating workload) that were focused on improving on stress, fatigue, and error. Flight crew training stressed the importance of operational procedures and technical knowledge, with less emphasis placed on nontechnical skills, which became isolated from the real-world operational contexts. Safety training, including TEM, is important because a crew's nontechnical (safety) knowledge helps more in managing errors effectively than crews' familiarization with operations through experience. Candidates who are shortlisted during selection and training processes must demonstrate analytical and coordination capabilities. Possessing these nontechnical skills allows pilots and crew members to carry out their duties efficiently and effectively.
Components of TEM
The following components are methods that help provide data for the TEM.
LOSA observation training
Training for LOSA experts includes two sessions: education in procedural protocols, and TEM concepts and classifications. A LOSA trainee is taught to find data first and then code them later for both sessions, during which a crew member must exhibit "LOSA Etiquette" — ability to notify the pilot as to why he or she was not able to detect an error or threat after a flight. The pilot's responsibilities include his or her opinions on what safety issues could have had an adverse impact on their operations. A LOSA trainee must then record the specific responses of the pilot and thereafter code performance using behavioral markers. The order of the recording is as follows: a) record visible threats; b) identify error types, crew's responses, and specific outcomes; and c) use CRM behavioral markers to rate crew.
Observers will finally record a pilot's overall response on a 4-point Likert scale: 1) poor, 2) marginal, 3) good, and 4) outstanding. The data are then quantified and tabulated as exemplified by the following format:
Planning and execution of performance
|Monitor cross-check||Active monitoring of crews||Situational awareness maintained||Outstanding|
|SOP briefing||Carried out necessary briefings||Thorough understanding of procedures|
|Contingency Management||Communicate strategies||Good management of threats and errors.|
|Identified Threats||Managed||Mismanaged||*Frequency (N)|
|Air Traffic Control||17||2||19|
|Airline Operational Pressure||9||0||9|
Frequency is the total number of threats that occurred and is denoted by N.
Categories of the LOSA
LOSA identifies three main categories that must be recorded:
- Threats are external factors or errors that are outside the influence of flight crews. These increase the complexity of normal operations because they can occur unexpectedly; pilots and flight crews may not be able to plan and fully investigate the cause of a threat if it occurs suddenly during the flight. Examples of threats are weather, terrain, aircraft malfunctions, and other external errors related to a personnel in charge of flight operations other than cockpit members. Non-standard care, decision strategy errors, procedural errors and protocol deviations are also examples of external factors. A LOSA expert, who is seated on the jump seat, must record such threats. A study on crew performance using the TEM approach, discovered that a captain who had less than 6 hours of sleep the day before a regular flight schedule carried out poorer threat management. First Officers experienced frustration and crews experienced Heightened Emotional Activity (HEA) as a result of restricted sleep. An understanding of HEA as a major part of the TEM approach is important during normal flight operations.
- Errors are caused by human actions or inaction that increase the likelihood of an adverse event. These errors come from crew judgment and communication problems. The difference between an error and a threat is that an error can, with careful attention, be quickly identified and crew members can find prompt solutions to the error. The impact of an error can, therefore, be quickly reduced if properly managed. Examples of errors include procedural errors (mistakes or inadequacy of attention towards a task at hand), and violation of SOP (intentional or unintentional). Although crew members are encouraged not to be afraid of admitting their mistakes, they must be able to criticize themselves since the learning process helps them understand the potential danger presented other crew members.
- Undesired Aircraft States are aircraft configurations or circumstances that are caused either by human error or by external factors. The management of unintended states is vital since they can result in serious aircraft accidents. For example, navigation problems on the cockpit display may lead a pilot to make an incorrect decisions, potentially causing injuries or fatality to passengers and crew members alike.
Safety change process
Safety change process (SCP), which is part of LOSA, is a formal mechanism that airlines can use to identify active and latent threats to flight operations. It is a guideline that communicates in detail what is an imminent threat to current operations or who is causing the threat. In the past, SCP data were based on investigation of accidents or incidents, experiences, and intuitions but nowadays SCP focuses more on the precursors to accidents. There are several steps involved in conducting SCP:
|Safety Change Process (SCP) model|
An unnamed airline conducted base-line observations from 1996 to 1998 using the defined SCP and LOSA data to improve its organization's safety culture and the results were positive. The crew error-trapping rate was significantly increased to 55%, meaning that crews were able to detect about 55% of the errors they caused. A 40% reduction in errors related to checklist performance and a 62% reduction in unstabilized approaches (tailstrikes, controlled flight into terrain, runway excursions, etc.) were observed. A proper review and management of SCP and LOSA data can prevent further disasters in flight operations.
- Accident Classification
- Aviation safety
- Crew Resource Management
- Pilot Error
- Error Management
- The curse of expertise
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