Rising Above the Chaos

Rising Above the Chaos

Human factors training provides a simple and practical way to increase technicians' awareness

Bill MagyarBy Bill Magyar

November 2000

Today's aircraft technicians find themselves caught in a crossfire of expanding regulations, mounting parts and sources validation and the constant pressure to stay on schedule. Add to this the wear and tear of personal and family issues, and you're looking at a work force performing under unrealistic expectations. Can accidents and incidents be far behind?
Industry studies, after all, attribute 70 percent of all flight accidents to human factors. Consider the rising rate of flight returns. All too often such aircraft incidents have been traced to little things - a missing fuel cap, a gear pin left in, or a warning light triggered by an open latch - evidence of human error evolving from the stress and strain of daily operations.
So what can be done to help technicians produce a consistently safe, quality product, no matter what the conditions? Many companies are turning to human factors training (also known as maintenance resource management) to bridge the gap between the technical and human side of maintenance operations. Human factors training allows participants to examine areas that technical training never addresses, such as:
• Individual and operational integrity
• The likelihood of taking unnecessary risks
• Maintaining situational awareness in the midst of chaos
Without proper training, technicians are ill-equipped to recognize the signs of impending errors, raising the risks of undesirable or even catastrophic results.
Beyond schooling technicians in the fundamentals of human factors, training must nurture skills that effectively implement those principles. Stress management, for one, not only allows individuals to understand how stress affects them and their operation, it offers insight into the major causes of stress in their life, as well as providing simple and effective ways to reduce them. Of equal importance is building skills in communication, teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution and decision-making, ideally practiced and mastered through a series of training exercises.
Bottom line, human factors training provides a simple and practical way to increase technicians' awareness of their need to think beyond the technical aspects of a job. Technicians who take this training acquire the tools that can help them sift through the constraints and pressures of the workplace while maintaining control of their lives and possibly the lives of others with whom they work or serve. In terms of time and expense, maintenance resource management training is a small investment compared to the huge opportunity it presents for returns in operational integrity, situational awareness and overall safety.