Human factors in aviation maintenance is a topic that never gets old for me. Understanding how our human nature can lead to being lax on the job, thinking we have a better way and holding biases impact the work in hangars and on aircraft is paramount to preventing those things from causing errors. And reducing errors is always the goal.
We have covered human factors over the years but felt the time was right to revisit this topic and take a look at some of the things we can do to improve our work. The nature of the task, the workload facing maintenance workers today, the working environment, the design of the work environment, tools used and the role of procedures in accomplishing the complex work of maintaining aircraft is essential to getting it right.
One issue that is intertwined with human factors is failure to follow procedures. A study commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that “Procedure not followed re-occurs with depressing regularity in incident and accident reports in aviation.” Other researchers list Failure to Follow Procedures (FFP) as the number one cause of maintenance mishaps. The FAA study published in 2017 is still an excellent source of information about this and is worth a read. Their results showed that the top three areas of concern were the validity and availability of the procedure documentation, the difficulty of the task being performed, and the organizations social rules/norms.
Work culture, starting from the top leadership all the way to the hangar floor is the linchpin of any organization’s safety and commitment to making efforts to improve. Individuals also play a key role in adhering to procedures, improving skills, continuing education, training and rooting out new and better ways to work by following the proper system of making changes.
Having a solid safety management system (SMS) can be a good way to include and address human factors and should be part of regular training within any risk control program. Addressing how human factors impact employees can yield multiple benefits like higher productivity rates, better safety and fewer on job injuries, less rework and, of course, saving money. For more on SMS, please check out Part 7 of Jason Dickstein’s SMS series in this issue starting on page 46. Parts 1-6 of his series can be found on our website.
There are excellent resources at FAA.gov free for the taking. One is a course called “FFP: The Buck Stops With Me” and is a great starting point for training or even conversations in meetings as a way to keep the topic top of mind for employees.
Also at FAA.gov the “Dirty Dozen” is available for download. Most people know about and have read through these. If it’s been a while, I highly recommend reviewing these twelve human factors hot topics like complacency, distractions, stress and poor communication. Some may find the cartoonish way they are depicted off-putting but don’t let those cartoons mislead you. This resource is full of excellent information and suggestions for counteracting these pitfalls. It makes for great safety meeting discussion points — I guarantee if you open up a conversation in a safety meeting with one of these twelve and review the info from the Dirty Dozen flyer with your team, there will be a lively discussion about it.
For more in-depth information, please read our story on human factors and the problem of failure to follow procedures written by Jim McKenna, starting on page 16.
In lock step with human factors is training. In this issue we take a look at the state of maintenance training. Writer Kathryn Creedy takes a look at how the FAA has been congressionally mandated to reform Part 147 training and yet the changes don’t seem to be happening. In spite of this situation, new training technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are being implemented around the world.
Companies are demanding better trained mechanics and technicians. They want workers that are well-versed in the current technologies of today, not the wood, dope and fabric of yesteryear. Flexibility to add or adjust curricula is going to be crucial as technology rapidly advances. Our update of the challenges being faced in training the next generation of A&P mechanics and avionics technicians starts on page 30.
We also take a look at parts tracking in this issue starting on page 22. This piece written by James Careless gives insight into new technologies that can help the ever-present challenge of finding the right parts, close by or as close as possible and getting them quickly, in spite of the current supply chain challenges (see the cover story in the summer issue of Aviation Maintenance called Better Faster Stronger — How to Fix the Aerospace Supply Chain).
Ian Harbison also provides a comprehensive look at hangar and hangar door developments. There are some incredibly innovative solutions out there for both hangars and doors. Whether you need a large temporary structure that can be relocated at a future date or a door system that can open and shut quickly, there are options that can satisfy the most unique challenges all while looking architecturally stunning. Check out this story on page 38.
Hope you enjoy this issue and the upcoming holidays — here’s to a fabulous 2022!