Occurrence Reporting Regulation - Preventing Accidents

  Background   EASA's role
  Existing accident reporting scheme   Process & timeline
 What is the Occurrence Reporting Regulation?  News, Media & Positions
 Reducing the risk of air accidents  Reference documents







Today’s aviation safety system primarily relies on technological progress, legislation overseen by regulatory authorities and lessons learned from investigations into accidents. This reactive approach, however, has shown its limits in the ability to generate significant safety improvements.

Existing incident reporting schemes

… are insufficient. The current EU directive 2003/42/EC had already established the basis for mandatory safety occurrence reporting systems. However, several shortcomings were identified, in particular the lack of protection of the reporters, the lack of harmonisation in the occurrence data collection and integration, leading to low quality reports and incomplete information, as well as the lack of requirements regarding safety analysis and recommendations (including follow-up by the Member States). 

What is the Occurrence Reporting Regulation?

EU Commission Occurrence Reporting RegulationGiven these shortcomings, the Occurrence Reporting Regulation (ORR) proposed by the EU Commission shifts the focus from a ‘reactive’ system to a pro-active, risk- and evidence-based system. It acknowledges that safety occurrence data is vital to allow for the timely identification and management of potential safety hazards – and this before these hazards turn into an actual accident. 

The ORR proposal does so by setting a comprehensive framework and standards for reporting, collecting, storing, protecting and disseminating the relevant safety information. It also introduces requirements on information analysis and adoption of follow-up safety actions at national level. 

Reducing the risk of air accidents – Just Culture

…is the core objective of the proposed ORR. To achieve this, the focus must shift from taking ‘corrective’ action after an accident has happened to the prevention of air incidents and accidents. The best approach for proactive prevention is one that encourages the reporting of and learning from mistakes. To do this, pilots, air traffic controllers and all other aviation safety-professionals must be able to share information about any errors or mishaps in an environment based on trust, one which neither entails blame nor leads to ungrounded prosecution.

This is why aviation safety professionals are advocating for the so-called ‘Just Culture’ principle which aims at encouraging open exchange of information about any events or mistakes. The proposed ORR makes a major contribution to strengthening this Just Culture principle. Among other, it contains provisions against the inappropriate use of safety information and for a strict protection of the reporter of a safety occurrence. It also describes how the Just Culture principle is guaranteed and implemented within each company, including a ‘whistle-blowing’ mechanism on which individuals can rely on in case this Just Culture principle has been violated. 

The Just Culture related provisions constitute an important central pillar of the new OR system, as everyday reality shows that establishing a proper safety culture at company level – even with a good legal framework – remains a challenging task. Multiple barriers still discourage professionals from reporting safety occurrences. Any occurrence going unreported reduces the ability to learn from it and to prevent it from turning into an accident. 

The Commission's ORR proposal is therefore an important step to overcome these reporting barriers and to set up a proactive approach to prevent air accidents and loss of life. 

EASA’s role in occurrence reporting

One central pillar of Europe’s future OR system will be the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) which will have a key role to play. The ORR enshrines EASA’s active involvement in a number of concrete ways:

  • Safety occurrences collected will be transmitted to Member States’ competent authorities and to EASA;
  • All occurrences collected by Member States (MS), organizations and EASA are aggregated into the European Central Repository (ECR), and EASA and MS have access to all data and information contained the ECR database;
  • EASA and MS analyse (and exchange) the information contained in the ECR, and they do so ‘collaboratively’ within the ‘Network of Aviation Safety Analysts’; the Network is chaired, prepared and organized by EASA;
  • This analysis complements what is done at national level, e.g. by identifying possible safety problems and key risk areas at European level, and by informing the European Aviation Safety Program (prepared by the Commission) and the European Aviation Safety Plan (prepared by EASA);
  • EASA (as well as MS and Commission) are bound by strict confidentiality requirements related to the safety information and the reporters of such information;
  • EASA advises the Commission (and MS) in the so-called ‘EASA Committee’, which will cover matters related to occurrence reporting.

Such a central role for EASA is a must for the new OR system to run smoothly and in a coordinated manner, while allowing Member States to remain fully involved and engaged.

Process & Timeline

Occurrence Reporting TimelineSince the publication of the ORR proposal, in December 2012, both the Council of Ministers’ AVIA working group and the European Parliament (EP) have been examining at the text within the ‘Co-decision’ procedure, allowing both institutions to amend the proposal.

While the Council of Ministers adopted its informal “General Approach” position on 10 June, watering down several key provisions related to Just Culture, the EP’s draft report has been published in June, followed by a debate in the EP Transport Committee in July. Since then, Members of the EP have tabled further amendments to those already proposed by the EP ‘rapporteur’ Christine de Veyrac (EPP) in her draft report.

On 17 September, the EP Transport Committee adopted the draft report of Mrs de Veyrac, which included some very valuable improvements, especially on the appropriate use of the information and protection of the reporter. Following the vote in the Transport Committee, negotiations between the EP and Council of Ministers resulted in a compromise text agreed upon between the two institutions. 

This text was adopted by the EP Transport Committee on 17 December, and voted upon by the EP Plenary on 26 Feb. 2014 with an overwhelming majority (644 in favour, 14 against). Following the EP vote, the Council endorsed the text on 3 April 2014 and the regulation was published in the Official Journal of the European Union. It will therefore apply as of 15 November 2015 (i.e. 18 months later). In the meantime, preparations will be made to adopt the necessary implementing rules and to develop necessary guidance material and IT applications for the recording, exchange and analysis of information.


News, Media & Positions

Reference documents

last update 13 June 2014