Transitioning to Continuous Top 5 List

Safety and Technical Training launched the Top 5 program in 2012 to put the spotlight on high risk analysis events requiring mitigation. A panel looked at events for contributing factors, and from those, the Top 5 issues were targeted each year. After six years, the program is hitting the reset button.

“The FAA wants swift action against these factors,” said Kelsey Shields, Top 5 Program Coordinator. “In the past, we’d have a year to put together a corrective action plan and get at least 80 percent of those corrective actions implemented. The reality is, though, that till the corrective action plan is written and approved, there is only about nine months to put the actions into place.”

Over the years, a list of 30 issues accumulated due to program policy stipulating that five new factors had to be chosen each year, and not allowing repetition of a Top 5 issue from a previous year.

“The thinking was, theoretically, if we’ve addressed an issue, we’ve fixed it. It turns out there simply wasn’t sufficient time to get results,” Shields explained, adding to the growing list was becoming programmatically unsustainable. It also left the field with a mixed message about where to put their focus.

“We needed to look at this program rigorously to say what risk is still out there,” Shields said. “Now, we’re transitioning to a Continuous Top 5 list, and we’re putting all the previous Top 5 issues back on the table for consideration.”

The fiscal year bounds of the program are being removed ensuring an item on the Top 5 list will be replaced only after mitigation plans are in place and performance targets met. The program is being overhauled to become a more realistic picture of risk.

“More time will be taken up front to analyze the issues to better develop the Corrective Action Plans for the Continuous Top 5,” Shields said. “We also want to monitor our outcomes to see the impact of the efforts, and we’ll continue to monitor the accumulated list of ‘top 30’ issues from FY12 through FY17 so we don’t lose track of them.”

The Continuous Top 5 process closes the loop ensuring identified risks are fully mitigated before addressing new risks. This process more closely aligns with Safety and Technical Training "Collect, Find, Fix, Monitor" approach to managing safety risk in the NAS.

The new Continuous Top 5 list selection begins in the coming months. Shields will work with Safety and Technical Training data source providers to analyze safety data trends they see and find out what is keeping them up at night. The list of candidates will be presented in late summer to a panel comprised of directors from each of the ATO offices, SUPCOM, and NATCA, for final selection. The chosen list will be announced to the ATO in September before experts are solicited from across the FAA and industry to work on each issue. The program will then follow a continuous process (see graphic).

“Going forward, we’re going to be able to give the right amount of attention to the issues posing the highest risk to the NAS, even if we’ve tackled them before,” Shields said.

“We want to take the time to fully mitigate the risks, and keep attention on them all the way through the process, and then monitor the results on the back end. This new program will maintain the intent of the original Top 5 while sending a much clearer message to the field about what’s really of concern, and why we need to make changes. We’ll also be able to show the field the benefits on the back end.”

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