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Remote Training Spreads Safety without Spending Money

August 6, 2013 -- In an effort to meet the budget challenges caused by sequestration and expand a joint NATCA-FAA safety program that’s already showing benefits, Partnership for Safety has embraced remote training.

Forty facilities are part of the PFS team, including 10 beta facilities that helped shape the program and received training last year. Since then, collaborative local safety councils at nearly 30 facilities have taken part voluntarily in the training sessions, which last about an hour-and-a-half and are conducted via a Web-based program and a telephone bridge.

“This is a virtually no cost way of doing business,” said Tony Manzione, the Partnership for Safety management lead. “We’ve not had any frustration. Everyone’s been really happy with the delivery.”

The local safety councils are a key component of Partnership for Safety, a joint effort between the FAA and NATCA that encourages employees to become actively engaged in identifying local hazards and developing safety solutions before incidents occur.

The remote setup allows instructors and students to deliver and receive the training at almost any location at little cost.

Partnership for Safety’s example may lead other groups to use remote training. FAA Aviation Safety, Information Technology and Technical Operations have observed the training to see how it could be used for other training efforts.

The Partnership for Safety training begins with an overview of the program covering basic requirements and information. Then it offers instruction on the two software tools — the Safety Portal and the ATC Info Hub — that local safety councils use to study safety data, mitigate safety issues and share lessons learned with local safety councils at other facilities.

The local councils must publish their actions in the ATC Info Hub once they’re completed. That way, councils at other facilities facing similar issues can see what others have done to address those issues.

“Before you get started working on a specific safety issue, you can go into the tool and do a search to see if anything pops up that someone’s already done,” Manzione said. “It gives you a place to learn about what other facilities have already done.”

Manzione said Partnership for Safety is well-suited to use remote training because it’s a workforce-driven program. There’s no culture change involved, so the nonverbal communication that comes with on-site training isn’t as essential.

“This training delivery method is working for PFS,” said NATCA Safety Chairman Steve Hansen. “What we need can be delivered in this manner. But this method of training will not work for all topics; we need to ensure that training is relevant, timely and effective.”

The workforce in the field is already motivated to improve safety, Manzione said. They don’t need to be convinced by a strong, in-person presentation.

“The people involved are already the safety people at the facilities,” he said. “They get it. They understand what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s just explaining the program and the tools.”

“PFS places local safety data and the necessary tools to do the job in the hands of the local experts,” Hansen said. “And we believe they are the right people; after all, they work the airspace everyday.”

In addition to saving travel costs, the virtual setup allows Partnership for Safety to train localcouncils at several facilities at once. They’ve trained as many as six councils during one session.

The training ends with an assignment: The councils are asked to identify and mitigate workplace distractions at their facilities. The assignment ties in with the collaborative NATCA-FAA Turn Off, Tune In campaign, as well as one of the items on the National Transportation Safety Board’s "Most Wanted List" — eliminating distractions in the workplace.

“The expectation is that within 60 days they’ll publish the issues they’ve identified and what they did to mitigate those issues,” Manzione said.

The Partnership for Safety program is mandatory, so local safety councils at every facility in the country eventually will be trained. But due to sequestration, training is currently following a voluntary schedule to allow facilities the flexibility to train when it’s most convenient. Many towers, TRACONs and centers have taken advantage of that flexibility, and the training team’s calendar for August is already getting full, according to Manzione.

“We’ve been very surprised by the amount of response we’ve received asking for the training,” he said. “People are reaching out and saying, ‘We want this and we want it now.’”

The Partnership for Safety team hopes to have all 292 Terminal facilities and 23 En Route facilities trained by the end of the calendar year. To meet that goal, mandatory training may begin soon.