George Best Belfast City Airport

At Belfast City Airport we had over 40 events during AOA UK Airports Safety Week. I was really impressed by the commitment that my colleagues showed, by the involvement that we secured from lots of our stakeholders and the focus that we had on mental health issues.

A charity partner of ours this year is INSPIRE, whose vision is ‘Wellbeing for all’ and whose goal is to ensure that people have access to services and support that are appropriate to their mental health and wellbeing needs. We invited them to join us for four sessions on mental health awareness with our own staff and others located at the airport.

We had three sessions looking at ‘hidden disabilities’. Two of these were on Sign Language training and were open to both staff and the public. The third was on Autism Awareness and was conducted with the help of the PEAT organisation. We realise how unsettling travelling through an airport and boarding an aeroplane can be for a child on the autistic spectrum, especially when it’s a break in their routine and they are unsure of what to expect. It can be a stressful journey for both parent and child. The aim of this session, which was a great success, was to build familiarity on a journey through the airport, taking the group through all the aspects of the journey, through security and even out to an aircraft.

We also had an aerodrome safeguarding lunch, which was supported by NATS and attended by a wide cross-section of interested parties, including local councils and businesses. It was a great opportunity to get together in a relaxed environment, put faces to names and build an understanding of what we each need and how we can better work together to achieve our goals.

One of the most valuable sessions from the point of view of the health and safety of our workers and the public was the presentation on aircraft refuelling awareness and associated risks, given by North Air and our Airport Fire Service, which included a practical demonstration of hazards around fuelling zones. It was a good example of knowledge-sharing between departments and we all learned a lot from it.

Our Fire Service also carried out four separate demonstration sessions on CPR and defibrillator use throughout the public areas of the terminal building, in the main landside concourse and airside departure areas, getting both staff and passengers involved. It proved a great way to break down fears and misconceptions and gave people hands on experience that, who knows, could even lead to saving a life down the line.

I couldn’t conclude without mentioning the great session that we had with NIVAH, the Belfast-based drug and alcohol testing solutions company. They showed people the effects of drugs and alcohol by using special goggles. That created some giggles, as well as a good discussion and better understanding.

All in all, we had a great AOA UK Airports Safety Week and we are already thinking about how we can make the 2018 edition of this event an even bigger success!

Fiona McCurdy – Safety & Compliance Manager, Belfast City Airport