Air Evac Lifeteam enters third Level of FAA’s SMS Voluntary Pilot project

Air Evac Lifeteam enters third Level of FAA’s SMS Voluntary Pilot project

20-Aug-2012 Source: Air Evac Lifeteam

Further bolstering its commitment to safety and risk management, Air Evac Lifeteam – the largest independently-owned air ambulance service in the country – has entered the third level of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Safety Management System Voluntary Pilot Project.

The national helicopter EMS company, with 110 bases in 15 states, has been enrolled in the pilot project since February, 2010, although systemic safety processes have been in place since 2001 and a formalized system in place since 2009.

“This took a companywide dedicated effort to complete, and speaks to the commitment of this company to ensure the overall safety of our patients, crew, and those entrusted in our care,” said Air Evac Lifeteam Director of Safety Dave Hardin, who described the company’s participation in the pilot project as a “challenging, but beneficial, process in the interest of safety.”

The milestone also places Air Evac Lifeteam in select company – it is only the third Part 135 operator in the nation to successfully exit 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, said Hardin.

The company successfully met the Level 2 criteria after a thorough review during a validation meeting Aug. 6 and 7 in St. Louis. Now that Air Evac Lifeteam has successfully entered Level 3 of the project, it 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,” explained Hardin, himself a 35-year veteran of the aviation industry.
As described by Hardin, SMS is the systemic approach to the management of risk, and encompasses a wide spectrum of reactive and proactive processes to reduce the aviation accident rate and ensure a safer work environment in the industry. Having an SMS is strictly voluntary and not mandated by the FAA.

Hardin explained that Air Evac’s voluntary participation in the FAA’s Safety Management System (SMS) pilot project is rooted in the company’s desire to do the right thing for the bottom line of safety”. “Our goal is to ensure safety at the highest possible level. A Safety Management System puts us in a better position to accomplish this goal.”

Air Evac Lifeteam has been one of the front runner’s in implementing safety systems long before regulatory mandates. The company was the first helicopter EMS provider to design and implement an Enhanced Operational Control Center (EOCC) staffed with trained and experienced aviation professionals to assist their flight crews with timely and accurate weather information, flight Risk Assessment, and developing Risk Mitigation strategies to safely and effectively accomplish their mission. With high-tech weather monitoring, flight mapping software and satellite tracking at their fingertips, the Operational Controllers are able to act as a “virtual co-pilot” to the entire fleet, anywhere in the nation, at any time.

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 of SMS has resulted in marked safety improvements at Air Evac in recent years, said Hardin.

Air Evac Lifeteam President Seth Myers has said the company embraces the SMS at the highest levels. “We’ll continue to ensure that appropriate resources are made available for safety initiatives, safety assessments and implementation of risk mitigation strategies,” said Myers. “We remain committed to achieving a fully-implemented Level 4 SMS.”

Hardin has said the ultimate goal for Air Evac Lifeteam is simple. “We’re working as a team to strive for zero accidents in our aviation operations and in our workplace,” he said. “We’re proud to participate in the FAA’s SMS pilot project, and we will continue working to meet the safety needs of our employees and our patients.”

For more information about Air Evac Lifeteam services or employment opportunities, call 1-800-793-0010 or visit www.lifeteam.net.

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