ACCIDENTS of all sorts frequently occur in the country. Accidents or failures should be a learning opportunity. This is done by investigating or finding the reasons for failure, which is also called root cause failure analysis.

Root cause failure analysis is a part of an investigation of accidents/failures of aircraft, trains, or any engineering system. On the one hand, it helps to improve the working of a system, while, on the other, it promotes a culture of accountability.

Although every accident at the national level needs to be investigated, major air crashes and train accidents need more attention, because the performance of our national organisations, such as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Pakistan Railways, cannot be compromised.

It has been observed that the public has expressed doubts and dissatisfaction over the outcomes of investigations performed after accidents on several occasions. It is primarily because the public feels that the investigations are either biased in favour of the parent organisation or are delayed, for these investigations are either performed by parent organisations or foreign agencies.

Although investigations performed by foreign agencies are considered credible and fair, they are time-consuming as well as expensive. The investigation of the aircraft crash in which Junaid Jamshed also passed away, took four years to complete. It was carried out jointly by PIA and CAA in collaboration with foreign agencies.

To counter delaying tactics and the blame game being played by organisations to save themselves, we need to have an independent probe body at the national level. In developed countries, accidents are investigated by independent agencies. For example, in the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates all air and ground accidents.

An independent investigation is important because, first, it helps to avoid further accidents and to improve the working of organisations. Second, the organisations try their best to follow all international standards and procedures to avoid accountability in case of a failure.

In this regard, the Failure Analysis Centre was established as a research centre in 2013 at the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad. It is the first research centre of its kind and has been quite impressive in performing root cause failure analysis of engineering systems.

It has been providing cost-effective and quick root cause failure analysis to various organisations. Unfortunately, it has not been established as an independent national institute and has not been given an autonomous status to perform investigations into major accidents involving aircraft and trains.

If this research centre is established as an independent and national institute and is given a role like the NTSB, it will enhance the performances of our national organisations. Consequently, investigations will be performed quickly, economically and independently.

It will also create opportunities for engineers and scientists to flourish in the field of root cause failure analysis, which is quite rare in Pakistan.

Sartaj Hussain

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2021