Management of Change in the Airport Industry

Author: Matthew Hopley, M. Eng., P. Eng., Manager – Alberta Branch, LRI Engineering Inc.

When facilities are constructed and commissioned, they begin their lifecycle in a generally code compliant and safe manner. As the facility ages, renovations, change of use, or a multitude of other factors can come into play, which alter the level of safety within a building, facility, or site. Unchecked changes compounded over time can erode the safety factors in the initial design, or can start to move an operation or process outside of its normal operating parameters. As a result, previously safe and appropriately protected facilities can develop high-risk conditions for losses. Losses including process interruptions, spills, environmental contamination, fires, explosions, and losttime injuries can all affect airports and their supporting operations, and the risk of these can increase without sufficient management of change.

Management of change (MoC) is a common term in process industries and within process engineering. It is often used for process management for Occupational Health & Safety compliance, and can be undertaken as part of an organization’s joint health & safety committee. The objective of the MoC process is to formalize changes or proposed changes and assess their impact on the level of safety of the operation. In the case of airport facilities, MoC can include tracking how people complete work, understanding whether or not deviations occur for work processes, evaluating changes to how and where procedures are conducted, and reviewing ongoing maintenance of critical systems. From a fire and life safety perspective, this can include evaluating safe work practices like hot work, considering storage arrangements of goods (both dangerous goods and ordinary products), and reviewing the potential change of use of spaces from one application to another. Changes will affect both land side and air side operations, and both passenger-facing services and back-of-house operations and maintenance.

Frequently, changes including employee turnover or retirement, renovations and drives to densify or improve the service offerings at an airport can catalyze change. Without a defined process or method to track changes, document the conditions, or otherwise transfer knowledge of a site, information regarding the ways in which to maintain safety can be lost from an organization. An important example in the built environment occurs where performance-based design or alternative solutions are used, which depend upon the maintenance of mitigating features, implemented as part of the design. These features can include special considerations regarding detection or suppression, the use of a space, or something as simple as construction type or finish material. Without adequate MoC, a space designed on a performance basis may no longer meet the conditions for safe, continued use.

Organizations can look to teams, including both internal and external experts, to review MoC processes and documentation, conduct facility inspections and audits, conduct risk analyses, document deficiencies and changes, and develop plans to help maintain an acceptable level of performance and safety. The goal of an MoC program is to develop a consistent, disciplined methodology for identifying proposed changes, evaluating their potential risk to an organization or facility, monitoring progress of the change, and ideally tracking the outcome or effectiveness of the change to achieve continuous improvement. This methodology allows for innovation, while managing the overall risk of a site or operation, reducing it to a tolerable level.

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