A surveillance finding is defined as:
The act of identifying and documenting a material aviation risk that has not been properly managed.
Voluntary compliance by participants is a primary means of maintaining compliance in the civil aviation system. This important principle is the basis of the surveillance finding and corrective action process, and underpins the CAA Surveillance Policy.
A finding is raised to record non-compliance with Civil Aviation legislation, a condition attached to an aviation document, or the provisions of any document forming, in whole or in part, the agreed standards or conditions on which the issue and continuance of an aviation document depends.
The finding will identify the particular legislative standard that is breached or the relevant system or procedure that is involved. In all cases surveillance findings will identify the causal factor or factors that gave rise to the finding, in order that corrective actions are properly directed. Corrective actions are only effective when these address the causes of the finding and the operation of systems that were found to be deficient. In this systems-based approach to safety, the immediate non-compliance is corrected, as well as any system deficiency or error that contributed to the non-compliance.
Findings are further identified according to their severity by one of the following categories, as currently defined and adopted by the CAA:
An occurrence or deficiency that caused, or on its own had the potential to cause, loss of life or limb.
An occurrence or deficiency involving a major system that caused, or had the potential to cause, significant problems to the function or effectiveness of that system.
An isolated occurrence or deficiency not indicative of a significant system problem.
The severity of a finding is a significant determinant in specifying the period allowed for rectification by the participant.
In specifying a period of time (due date) for the completion of corrective actions related to a surveillance finding, CAA staff performing inspections and audits are exercising a discretion envisaged by the Act. The Director has discretion with respect to his power under the Civil Aviation Act to take action in the public interest to enforce compliance in the case of a breach of regulatory requirements. Such action might include legal enforcement (prosecution), or other action as appropriate.
In exercising the discretion, staff performing surveillance tasks have the ability, where appropriate, to “stay” further action of this sort while voluntary compliance takes place. It is important to note that the issue of a finding notice with associated corrective / preventive action(s) specifying a period of time for completion does not preclude additional action being taken with respect to the deficiency identified if this is considered justified in the particular circumstances.
In allowing a period for rectification of a safety finding the “fact” or existence of a safety finding is not altered. The particular non-compliance remains and is not diminished in any way. The participant is in non-compliance for as long as operations continue while the deficiency is not rectified. The discretion simply reflects the reality that in certain circumstances, dependent on the severity of the finding, it may be appropriate for a period of time to be provided for the participant to return to compliance.
In applying this discretion staff performing safety monitoring and inspections will exercise their judgement, within guidelines provided, as to the appropriate period to allow in any particular case. This includes specifying a nil period if the severity of the finding and the circumstances warrant it.
When performance is not brought within required standards by this process or when the nature of the non-compliance is such that other action is appropriate, the CAA may take another form of action to ensure compliance or remove a safety risk. Such actions include administrative or certificate action to restrict privileges under the exit control function, legal enforcement measures, and use of the other regulatory tools as appropriate.