“I want the individual responsible for this incident fired!” All too often I have heard this knee jerk response long before the facts are known and a rational evaluation of the situation can take place.
Mistakes happen, and in our industry, as we all know, some can have serious consequences. In this article I will address mistakes that involve damage to an aircraft and the impact that it has on the technician(s) involved.
Addressing the personnel involved in an incident is often difficult and emotional. Employees, genuinely distraught, fearful of losing their job must feel confident they will receive a fair review from management. Follow-on actions should consider such factors such as length of service, past performance, and any extenuating circumstances relevant to the incident.
Mistakes are a reality and will continue to occur as long as humans are involved in the process of maintaining and repairing aircraft. Managers must assess these mistakes from a multiple perspective. Facilities which maintain a high safety record have policies to initiate corrective action and learn from their mistakes.
There is an old adage that says “the only people who do not make mistakes are those who are not doing anything.” If we agree with that premise, then it is a certainty that technicians will make a mistake(s) during their career. There is very clear distinction between an honest mistake and willful misconduct, gross negligence and dishonestly. In the latter cases, individuals should be disciplined or terminated and if warranted reported to the appropriate legal authority.
Once a mistake of any consequence occurs, it quickly makes its way to the management level with the authority to resolve the problem. The mistake can be an internal issue that is handled as a “company matter” or, as is often the case, it becomes a “customer service” issue because a customer’s aircraft is affected.
Customer service issues are potentially complex. It is critical to involve the customer in the corrective action process. If a customer’s aircraft is involved, notifying the customer immediately is the first course of action. Depending on the severity of the problem, it is helpful to have a corrective action plan established so you can tell the customer how you plan to remedy the problem. Recovery from a mistake can have a positive effect on the relationship between the service provider and the customer. Obviously, no one is happy when an incident occurs, however, the recovery process demonstrates the true metal of a service provider.
In my more than 30 years of experience, I can attest to the fact that customers will accept the most serious error provided the service center is truthful and acts in good faith to correct the problem. Some loyal long-term relationships have been borne out of a negative situation turned around by a positive response from the service center.
Let’s agree that mistakes are nothing more than the definition stated in the dictionary. They are not sinister plots hatched by employees to damage the customer’s aircraft or cost the company money. The vast majority of technicians arrive at work with the intention of doing their job to the best of their ability. No one decides on the drive to work that “they will foul things up today.” As absurd as that premise is, the treatment of employees after an incident would lead you to conclude that some managers and organizations subscribe to that theory.
My experience has been the technician who made an error feels worse than anyone else. Most technicians are harder on themselves because they feel they have failed not only their peers, but the customer, and the company. Self-assessment is the very fabric that maintains a high level of safety and integrity in the aviation industry.
The Role of Discipline in Building an Effective Safety Culture By Jacqueline Booth-Bourdeau May 2000 Jacqueline Booth-Bourdeau is a Technical Officer with Transport Canada's Aircraft...