Organisations need to work together to reduce the risk of airborne conflict at unattended aerodromes.

Airborne conflict at unattended aerodromes is a risk shared by all flying in common airspace – pilots, businesses, and any others, including passengers.

Everyone who participates in that airspace has a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) to manage this shared risk in some way.

Duty holders include aerodrome owners and other businesses, as well as both commercial and private pilots.

HSWA emphasises a performance-based approach to health and safety, placing responsibility on ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ (PCBU) to identify, assess, and manage risks. ‘PCBU’, in this sense, largely refers to an organisation, although it can mean individuals who’re self-employed. These HSWA requirements are similar to, and consistent with, Section 12 of the Civil Aviation Act 1990, which requires certificated operators to identify and manage risk.

HSWA doesn’t end there. Sections 45 and 46 of the Act place requirements on ‘workers’ and ‘other persons’ who work for the PCBU, and/or use the premises operated by the PCBU of the aerodrome.

HSWA duties of all pilots

Under Sections 45 and/or 46, all pilots – private, commercial, or recreational – have duties that include them taking ‘reasonable care’ for their own safety, and the safety of others who might be affected by any actions they take.

There’s a correlation here with Section 13 of the Civil Aviation Act 1990, which states the primary duty of the pilot in command is to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft, and the safety of the passengers and crew.

Under HSWA, pilots also have a duty to comply with any reasonable instruction, policy, or procedure provided to them by the PCBU managing or controlling an aerodrome.

This HSWA requirement is analogous to the CAA requirements under rule 91.223 (see page 10).

So isn’t this a double up?

In a way yes, but it’s anticipated by HSWA, which recognises ‘other enactments’ in Section 35. To make a long story short, the requirements of HSWA and the Civil Aviation Act overlap and reinforce each other, as represented in the diagram below.

The requirements of HSWA and the Civil Aviation Act overlap and reinforce each other.

So if you enter an aerodrome, for work or recreation, on foot or by air, one way or another you are required to abide by the instructions of the PCBU/certificated organisation.

So what does this mean?

Actions all pilots can take to reduce the potential impact of their activities on others, whether on the ground or in the air, include:

  • exercising increased caution near aerodromes and airports, or when landing, taxiing, and taking off
  • conducting effective lookouts and scans while flying
  • guaranteeing radio calls are clear and concise; and
  • meeting any requirements outlined in the AIP, civil aviation rules, or other policies and procedures.

Safety in and around aerodromes

Under the Civil Aviation Act 1990, certificated operators must identify and manage risks within their own organisational structures as part of their safety management systems. This is no different under HSWA, with PCBUs having duties to manage risks to workers and others.

As PCBUs, aerodrome operators and owners have a duty to ensure the safety of individuals using their facilities.

This includes understanding the role they play in managing the risk of airborne conflict.

For a PCBU managing or controlling an aerodrome, to effectively fulfil their duty, they must carry out regular and ongoing assessments identifying hazards, and their associated risks.

Other duties for the aerodrome PCBU include making sure there’s adequate signage, properly maintaining runways and taxiways, and making sure any other facilities being used are in good order.

The aerodrome PCBU should think broadly about, and, where possible, maintain oversight of, what’s happening on their runways, taxiways, and in the circuit. They should set up and maintain a system encouraging open and transparent reporting by all aerodrome users.

User groups are strongly recommended

PCBUs managing or controlling an aerodrome should also put a user group in place. For further information on good practice of user groups, read AC139-17 Aerodrome User Groups.

All parties using that aerodrome should regularly attend user group meetings. They should discuss airborne conflict and other risks associated with the aerodrome, and collectively make decisions on what actions they’ll take to manage those risks. These agreed actions are known as ‘controls’.

All parties should regularly review their agreed controls to make sure they remain effective. Risks change often, new risks emerge, and some controls may introduce their own risks. Risk management is a continuous process – never a ‘one-and-done’ meeting.

Real people, real risks

It’s important that PCBUs, and others, consider the link between human factors and safety when deciding on effective risk management strategies.

User groups should consider, alongside the potential for physical harm to occur, factors such as fatigue, stress, and communication breakdowns when evaluating and addressing potential risks.

Manage risks within your sphere of influence and control

When two or more PCBUs are working at the same location, or in the same airspace, they must work together to fulfil their individual duties.

Where those duties overlap, each operator must do what they can, within their influence and control, to manage the risks. Doing nothing is not an option, and leaving the ‘doing’ to somebody else does not absolve an organisation of its duty.

Only by working together, can gaps in a system be identified, and PCBUs and others reach a common understanding of their and each other’s roles, responsibilities, and actions.

This results in better understanding of problems, which will lead to better solutions.

Consult, coordinate, cooperate

While there are aircraft in the sky, there exists the potential for collision.

While it’s almost impossible to eliminate the risk of airborne conflict, PCBUs and others can work together to effectively manage risk arising from the shared activity of flying.

By consulting, cooperating, and coordinating the activity of flying together, they can reduce the opportunities for airborne conflict.

HSWA duties/legislation related to this article

S22 Understanding what is reasonably practicable to do after taking specific factors into consideration

S36 Primary duty of care by PCBUs to workers and others

S37 Duties of the PCBU that controls a workplace (ie. councils)

S34 The overlapping duties that PCBUs share in relation to an activity

S30 Duties of the PCBU to manage risks

S45 Duties attached to workers

S46 Duties attached to other persons (private and recreational pilots, etc)

Further information

For more information on overlapping duties and shared risk under HSWA legislation, see WorkSafe New Zealand’s website: 

Overlapping duties(external link)

For more information on making accurate radio calls, see:

Plane talking GAP booklet [PDF 1.7 MB]

There’s also an accompanying video to the Plane talking GAP booklet, see:

Posted in Aerodromes, General safety;

Posted 2 months ago