Regulations Amending the Canadian Aviation Regulations (Safety Belts): SOR/2021-153

Canada Gazette, Part II, Volume 155, Number 14

SOR/2021-153 June 17, 2021


P.C. 2021-595 June 17, 2021

His Excellency the Administrator of the Government of Canada in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, pursuant to section 4.9 footnote a of the Aeronautics Act footnote b, makes the annexed Regulations Amending the Canadian Aviation Regulations (Safety Belts).

Regulations Amending the Canadian Aviation Regulations (Safety Belts)


1 (1) The portion of subsection 605.25(1) of the Canadian Aviation Regulations footnote 1 before paragraph (a) is replaced by the following:

605.25 (1) The pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall direct all of the persons on board the aircraft to fasten safety belts, including any shoulder harness,

(2) Paragraph 605.25(3)(c) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

(3) Paragraph 605.25(4)(b) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

2 Paragraph 605.26(1)(a) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

3 (1) The portion of subsection 605.27(1) of the Regulations before paragraph (a) is replaced by the following:

605.27 (1) Subject to subsection (2), the crew members on an aircraft shall be seated at their stations with their safety belts, including any shoulder harness, fastened

(2) Subsection 605.27(3) of the Regulations is replaced by the following:

(3) The pilot-in-command shall ensure that at least one pilot is seated at the flight controls with safety belt, including any shoulder harness, fastened during flight time.

Coming into Force

4 These Regulations come into force on the day on which they are published in the Canada Gazette, Part II.


(This statement is not part of the Regulations.)


Despite Transport Canada (TC) publications [Advisory Circulars (AC), Aviation Safety Letters (ASLs) and Civil Aviation Safety Alerts (CASAs)] over the years describing safe and compliant safety belt use, incidents involving improper use of safety belts on Canadian aircraft remain. Between 1990 and 2018, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada identified 62 accidents involving detachable shoulder harnesses where it was determined that the harnesses were not being worn at the time of the accident. footnote 2 Of those 62 accidents, 33 yielded fatalities, totalling 68 deaths. Of those 68 deaths, 37 were individuals who had not been wearing the available shoulder harness. footnote 2 Although the survivability of these 62 accidents varied, in many cases, the use of shoulder harnesses could have improved the occupants' chances of survival and egress.

The TSB's final investigation report A17O0264 footnote 2 for the 2017 Hydro One Networks Inc. helicopter accident stated that the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) are not clear in requiring the use of all available components of a safety belt (i.e. lap strap and any installed shoulder harness). The TSB found that shoulder harnesses may not be used as intended, increasing the risk of injury or death. As a result, the TSB made recommendation A19-01 in report A17O0264 “that the Department of Transport amend the CARs to remove any ambiguity associated with the definition of ‘safety belt.'” Regulatory amendments are required to address recommendation A19-01.


On December 14, 2017, a Hydro One Networks Inc. Airbus Helicopters AS 350 B2 helicopter, equipped with an external platform, was transporting a crew of power line technicians between a staging area and transmission towers in an area located eight nautical miles north-northeast of Tweed, Ontario. The technicians attached a few items to the external platform while boarding the helicopter. Shortly after take-off, a canvas bag, not properly secured, separated from the platform and struck the helicopter's tail rotor. Seconds later the tail rotor, tail rotor gearbox, and vertical fin separated. The helicopter became uncontrollable and collided with terrain. The three power line technicians, unrestrained, separated from the helicopter before impact and were fatally injured. Each seat in the aft cabin was equipped with a safety belt that included a detachable shoulder harness; however, the harnesses were rolled up and secured with electrical tape before flight, preventing them from being used.

In 2013, TC published guidance in ASL Issue 4: Shoulder Harnesses and Seat Belts – Double Click for Safety. From the ASL:

Note that the definition of safety belt includes a lap strap OR a lap strap AND shoulder harness, to address all aircraft, including those exempted from having shoulder harnesses due to their age and original basis of certification. The definition was not intended to provide an either/or choice to the flight crew. Unfortunately, that has become a common misinterpretation. It does not help that, unlike automobiles, where both the lap strap and shoulder harness are generally a combined unit that cannot be separated, aircraft systems normally permit lap straps and harnesses to be latched individually. This tends to reinforce the widespread misunderstanding of having a choice when strapping in.

This article was republished in TC ASL 1/2018.

In November 2014, TC issued AC 605-004, Use of Safety Belts and Shoulder Harnesses on Board Aircraft, stating that “helicopter pilots involved in long line operations have pointed out that twisting sideways to monitor the load is very uncomfortable and unmanageable when wearing a shoulder harness.” Nevertheless, the AC reminded all aircraft operators of the regulatory requirements to wear safety belts, including a shoulder harness (if installed). Five years later, in 2018, TC issued CASA 2018-02: Use of Seatbelts and Cargo Security, to remind all operators of correct usage of passenger safety belts, and the importance of proactively promoting passenger use of safety belts.

Subsection 101.01(1) of the CARs defines a safety belt as “a personal restraint system consisting of either a lap strap or a lap strap combined with a shoulder harness.” Based on this definition, Hydro One Networks Inc. erroneously considered it would be in compliance with the regulations that required the use of safety belts if occupants wore the lap strap alone. The TSB concluded its investigation of the accident and released report A17O0264 on October 30, 2019. In its report, the TSB recommended that the Department of Transport amend the CARs to remove any ambiguity associated with the definition of “safety belt.” TC committed to addressing the TSB's recommendations in a timely manner to clarify the use of all components of the safety belt in the CARs.


The objective of the amendment is to address TSB recommendation A19-01 by removing any perceived ambiguity associated with the definition of “safety belt,” thereby ensuring clarity and certainty of proper safety belt use.


These amendments amend sections 605.25, 605.26 and 605.27 of the CARs to explicitly state that in order for a safety belt to be considered fastened, the lap strap and any installed shoulder harness must also be fastened. While requirements for safety belts are listed throughout the CARs, section 605.25 specifies general usage, while sections 605.26 and 605.27 specifically dictate safety belt usage by passengers and crew members, respectively.

Regulatory development


TC consulted industry stakeholders through a notice of proposed amendments (NPA), available online. The NPA was distributed through the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) on March 1, 2021, with a 30-day comment period ending on March 31.

In total, three stakeholders provided comments: an aircraft manufacturer, a Subpart 703 air operator, and the United States (U.S.) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The NPA originally stated that amendments would update the CARs to indicate that “a safety belt is considered to be fastened when all components required by these regulations are in use.” All three comments indicated that in order to ensure there is no perceived ambiguity, the definition should specifically mention shoulder harnesses, rather than “all components.” TC agreed with these comments and the regulatory text was adjusted accordingly.

One stakeholder indicated concern on amending section 605.26 of the CARs regarding passenger safety belts due to the need of using extensions for shoulder harnesses on a Cessna 208. The concern indicated that the inertial reels installed require passengers to use an extender that could cause the metal buckle to lie across the torso. The commenter requested that the requirement for passengers to use shoulder harnesses (when installed) be removed and that it only apply to pilots and flight crew. TC reviewed this concern and determined that, where a shoulder harness is required to be installed by regulation, it is required to meet airworthiness standards for safety of the occupants. Therefore, no changes have been made based on this comment.

It should be noted that the regulatory amendments do not alter the original policy on safety belt use, and do not impact the design standards for the installation of shoulder harnesses; the amendments simply clarify the existing requirement for the need to use any installed shoulder harness.

Given that the proposal is administrative in nature (i.e. it clarifies the existing intent); that the proposal does not impose any incremental burden on stakeholders; and that stakeholders are supportive of ensuring that the CARs are clear and explicit regarding the use of shoulder harnesses, the amendments were not prepublished in the Canada Gazette, Part I.

Modern treaty obligations and Indigenous engagement and consultation

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Federal Approach to Modern Treaty Implementation, analysis was undertaken to determine whether the amendments to the CARs are likely to give rise to modern treaty obligations. No impacts on modern treaties were identified.

Instrument choice

The CARs contain specific provisions related to the use of safety belts, and many other parts of the CARs point to these sections to describe compliant use. These provisions were determined by the TSB to be ambiguous, as they do not explicitly state that, in order for a safety belt to be considered fastened, the lap strap and any installed shoulder harness must also be fastened. In the past, TC attempted to address this ambiguity in policy and guidance material; however, there remains uncertainty in the interpretation of the CARs. Therefore, amending regulatory provisions that specifically target the use of safety belts was deemed to be the only approach for addressing the concerns of ambiguity raised by the TSB. Without these regulatory amendments, the perceived ambiguity would persist, and the TSB's recommendation would not be appropriately addressed. No non-regulatory options were considered.

Regulatory analysis

Benefits and costs

The amendments are not expected to result in any incremental costs.

Clarifying the requirements to wear all components of a safety belt may result in safety benefits due to the increased chances of survival following an accident where the safety belt was otherwise improperly worn. Due to the uncertainty of the increase in the rate of proper fastening of safety belts resulting from this clarification, these safety benefits are not monetized.

Small business lens

The small business lens does not apply, as there are no associated impacts on businesses.

One-for-one rule

The one-for-one rule does not apply, as there is no incremental change in administrative burden on businesses.

Regulatory cooperation and alignment

In the process of developing this proposal, TC researched how provisions related to safety belt use in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) partner states fit into their regulatory structures.

U.S. FAA and European Union

The U.S. FAA does not specifically define “safety belt”; however, Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) [14 CFR 91.107] outlines the requirements for the use of safety belts, shoulder harnesses and child restraining systems (similar to the requirements of section 605.25 of the CARs). This section of the CFR states: “No pilot may cause to be moved on the surface, take off, or land a U.S.-registered civil aircraft (except a free balloon that incorporates a basket or gondola, or an airship type certificated before November 2, 1987), unless the pilot in command of that aircraft ensures that each person on board has been notified to fasten his or her safety belt and, if installed, his or her shoulder harness.”

The European Commission (EC) Regulation EC No. 859/2008 (OPS 1.320) also indicates that crew members shall be properly secured by all safety belts and harnesses provided, and that passengers have their safety belt, or harness where provided, properly secured.

These amendments will align the CARs provisions with those of the U.S. FAA and the European Union.

Strategic environmental assessment

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a preliminary scan concluded that a strategic environmental assessment is not required.

Gender-based analysis plus

When applying the gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) lens to the proposal, it was determined that these administrative amendments would not disproportionately impact any group of persons. Instead, the requirements would strengthen the safety of pilots, flight crews and passengers alike.


Section 605.25 outlines when a pilot is to require safety belt use, including any shoulder harness, while sections 605.26 and 605.27 outline the obligations of the passengers and crew members, respectively, to follow the direction to fasten safety belts, including shoulder harnesses.

By explicitly stating that the lap strap and any installed shoulder harness must be worn together in order to be fastened, the perceived ambiguity identified in sections 605.25, 605.26 and 605.27 by the TSB will be considered resolved. In addition, the regulatory amendments will eliminate any misperception that the current CARs definition provides an either/or choice when both a lap strap and shoulder harness are available.

Implementation, compliance and enforcement, and service standards


The amendments come into force upon publication in the Canada Gazette, Part II.

In addition, AC No. 605-004, Use of Safety Belts and Shoulder Harnesses on Board Aircraft, will be updated to reflect changes to the CARs, and to remind operators of the importance for persons carried onboard an aircraft to use all available components of restraint systems.

Compliance and enforcement

As acknowledged in AC 605-004 (issued by TC in November 2014), Use of Safety Belts and Shoulder Harnesses on Board Aircraft, it is difficult to enforce mandatory use of safety belts during all phases of flight. The CARs put the onus on the pilot-in-command to direct the use, and for flight crews, flight attendants and passengers to properly fasten their safety belts. These amendments remove the possibility of an air carrier, flight crew member or passenger incorrectly interpreting the use of a lap strap alone as being within compliance when a shoulder harness is available.

Through updating AC No. 605-004, TC continues to educate operators on responsible safety belt usage, as the latter are responsible for ensuring access to functional safety belts (i.e. that their aircraft meet airworthiness requirements). Flight crews are responsible for appropriately directing passengers to fasten their safety belt. Furthermore, proper fastening of safety belts must be explicit and conveyed to all passengers.


Steve Palisek
Regulatory Development
Regulatory Affairs Branch
Civil Aviation
Safety and Security Group
Transport Canada
Place de Ville, Tower C
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N5
Telephone: 1‑800‑305‑2059