Applied Solutions to Ensure Safe Human Performance

The combination of aircraft, ground equipment and a tough environment spells challenges for worker safety and for efficient work performance. Over the past few years FAA and industry partners have cooperated to design and deliver products that help with human factors issues for workers on the ground, to include maintenance and all other airport services personnel. The work is ongoing and examples are described herein.

What are the Airport Services Human Factors?
For the past three years, the Air Transport Association (ATA) Ramp and Maintenance Safety Committee — led by Gerry McGill, regional manager, ground safety at Continental Airlines — has worked with the FAA, manufacturers, universities, and airport services companies to address human factors challenges and solutions. Among other duties, McGill has been diligent to ensure that the committee’s Ph.D.s keep the talk as practical and applied as can be. That goal is shared by the FAA’s Office of the Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Human Factors in Aircraft Maintenance. While proven fundamental science and engineering principles are critical, the real trick is to make them useful at work. One such example is the Operator’s Manual for Human factors in Airport Operations.

When the workers can go home to their families each day without injury and aircraft can depart on time with no ground damage, it is likely that someone is paying attention to the key human factors. The human factors definitions can go on and on, but the ATA committee identified seven key actions important to airport services human factors. They are:

  • Follow the procedures
  • Take active steps to prevent worker injury;
  • go home healthy
  • Teach all workers about human factors
  • Be alert at work; fatigue is a threat to safe work
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Investigate events and learn from them
  • Measure performance, both positive and negative

These seven actions seem obvious and if followed, the ramp would be a safer place to work and money and time would be saved. In addition to the seven action chapters listed above, the concise manual also offers a final chapter describing how to sustain and cost-justify human factors programs.

The Operator’s Manual follows the format of a similar document published in 2006 for maintenance environments. In 2006 the FAA administrator awarded the maintenance version of the Operator’s Manual the FAA’s prestigious Plain Language Award. That award was attributed to the straight-forward language and concise length of the document.

The Airport Operations manual is only 29 pages, including photos and graphics.

Chapter 4 covers fatigue. Like the other chapters, the format addresses the following questions:

  • What is meant by alertness/fatigue?
  • Why is it important?
  • How do you set up a fatigue management program?
  • How do you know if it is working?
  • What are the key references?

An example of why fatigue is an issue is: “Longer commutes, extended shifts, double and triple shifts, shift swapping, and second jobs impose greater demands on
the workforce and reduce the amount of available time to sleep.” The committee’s members, doctors and industry personnel helped to ensure the answers were scientifically sound yet practical for application. Recognizing that all the answers are not available in 29 pages, the committee also included important references. The references are available with all appropriate Web links for easy access.

New Multimedia Tool
The FAA has released tools to help organizations tailor human factors presentations to match their specific requirements. The Human Factors Presentation System (HFPS) has nearly 170 Microsoft PowerPoint slides, 10 video snippets and 40 animations. The HFPS has a primary emphasis on maintenance, but is being used by trainers and presenters for everyone from flight crews, cabin crews, and a broad spectrum of ground-based workers.

The project stemmed from the results of a 2007 survey to U.S. FAA airworthiness aviation safety inspectors. FAA inspectors said that they wanted material to help them make presentations to their FAA peers and to industry audiences. They wanted material that contained appropriate multimedia — like videos and animations — but also PowerPoint slides with organized content that could be edited.

Table 1
Region Organization E-mail
Americas/Other FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute
North America Aircraft Electronics Association
Asia-Pacific Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department
Asia-Pacific Singapore Institute of Aerospace Engineers
Europe-UK International Federation of Airworthiness

HFPS is not a computer-based training system. It is for a presenter needing interesting and high-value topics, but not necessarily a complete human factors course of instruction. In many cases, company technical personnel have many valuable stories but not the accompanying instructional media. The HFPS provides a lot of the media and then the company can adapt it to their needs.

A primary goal of the system is that it lets you customize the presentation — adding, deleting and modifying slides as they relate to your organization.

The HFPS does not require a written user’s manual. The “Instructions for Use” video describes the system and its use, and is available from the launch menu. You can run the standard presentations directly from the launch menu.

The entire program can be loaded on to your own computer where you can make as many changes as your knowledge and creativity allow.

Creation — The Media and the Content
The HFPS covers a set of generic topics that blend a touch of basics with concepts that the presenter can apply to the specific workplace. It creates a forum to discuss major world aviation events as well as local data from a company’s error reporting data. It also provides information and Web links to ensure continuing education opportunities. HFPS includes the following main topics:

The HFPS uses easy-to-remember methods to apply human factors principles at work and in life outside of work. One example is the four-minute video on “human factors spectacles.” This segment provides a way to see human factors not only in the workplace, but also in one’s personal life. It permits the presenter to run the video and let it serve as a basis to discuss various ways to view human factors issues.

Developed by Bill Johnson and Mike Maddox in the early 1990s, the largest and most content-intense section in the HFPS addresses the PEAR model:

  • People
  • Environment in which they work
  • Actions they perform
  • Resources necessary to perform work

The PEAR model is a way for the presenter to explore a variety of human factors that affect work and life. The system lets a presenter provide as much or as little detail that they choose. For example, the HFPS has a video, many animations, and a number of slides that address fatigue issues. Fatigue issues are included in the “people” portion of the PEAR model chapter.

One Size Does not Fit All
It is a challenge to present slides made by another. The HFPS system offers notes for each slide, but presenters are not bound to a script or limited to the nearly 170 slides in the program. One of the videos describes HFPS as a “giant Lego-like collection of human factors information.” Use the blocks to build a presentation that works for you.

Availability and Distribution
The HFPS is available through professional associations, local FAA offices, other international regulators, and at FAA booths at conventions. Table 1 shows the best contact to obtain a DVD from your region. Be sure to include your full mail address and phone number with the e-mail request. FAA is welcoming others to help distribute the system worldwide.

The Work Continues
While useful products like Human Factors Presentation System and the Operator’s Manuals for Human Factors are helping many organizations today, the work continues. FAA, working with industry partners, is currently developing two additional applications.

The first new project is a system for conducting normal operations audits of ramp and maintenance environments. Such audits shall be conducted by peers, in a nonthreatening manner, which shows not only the weaknesses of an organization but also the strengths. This method has been used on the flight decks for many years and has shown a positive influence on safety culture. Such systems are also complimentary to the evolving safety managements required by ICAO for 2009.

FAA Flight Standards will continue to develop applied materials to support fatigue risk management systems rather than trying to establish duty-time regulations. Example research and development products are likely to include guides for scheduling, educational materials and job-aids for workers, and assistance with identifying and testing new alertness technologies that may lessen fatigue-related risk. In any case, you can be sure that the outcomes will be practical and useful to the industry at large.

The Operator’s Manual for Human Factors in Airport Operations is available at the newly revised Web site: