The Time is Now!
Human factors training for aircraft technicians
By Richard Komarniski
A recent change by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Annex 6 Part I requires that "The training program established by the maintenance organization shall include training in knowledge and skills related to human performance, including coordination with other maintenance personnel and flight crew."
The impact of this change by ICAO is that within the next year, human factors training for aircraft technicians will become mandatory for all Canadian Approved Maintenance Organizations and JAA 145 organizations. In the United States, the FAA is still deciding how they are going to address this requirement. At the moment, they have filed a difference with ICAO. There are significant differences of opinion in the U.S. over whether this type of training for technicians should be mandatory, the extent of the training, and how it should be provided. In the meantime, aviation authorities in Canada, Europe, and at ICAO are already convinced of the benefits of providing human factors training to aviation technicians and are moving forward.
Benefits of training
A large amount of data is available showing an overwhelming benefit for having a human factors training or maintenance resource management (MRM) training program for aviation technicians. There are reports of 25 to 68 percent reductions of maintenance errors directly attributable to providing human factors training to aviation technicians. Some companies in the industry have been providing their employees with human factors training for the last six years without the regulations in place and have also provided them with multiple recurrency classes.
Other companies have resisted providing such training citing the lack of specific requirement that mandates human factors training. They have missed the whole point. In today's competitive environment, we cannot afford errors - especially human errors, which contribute to 80 percent of our incidents. Preventing one error in our environment is usually the only payback we need to justify and embrace a good human factors training program.
There are several ways of complying with this training requirement:
• CD-ROM program
• Pre-defined Presentation packages
• Internet program
CD's, available at $125 to $150 per copy, allow individuals to work through at their own pace and convenience. But, this type of training provides for no interaction with other employees or managers, including the exchange of ideas and personal experiences.
Pre-defined presentation packages (costing from $5,500 to $15,000) offer the ability for a person to open and use to facilitate a program for a group of technicians. The benefits of this type of program include employee interaction and exchange of ideas. But, the facilitator usually lacks any special human factors training and is not equipped to provide any training of guidance not already included in the canned presentation package.
There also have been attempts made to provide this training over the Internet. This approach is similar to the CD approach and has the same benefits and problems.
The three methods identified above are available to comply with the new regulation. More is needed, however, to fully embrace the new requirement and position an organization to achieve the maximum benefits from human factors training programs.
Based on my experience, the following approach will provide the most benefits:
• Create a classroom environment to support intensive human factors training.
• Include specific examples tailored to the organization and the type of work the technicians perform.
• Provide information of the causes of human error and then proven safety nets (ways to prevent human errors) that the technicians can implement individually, as a group, and as a part of an organization.
• Expose management at all levels to the training so that they can embrace the behavioral change that has been created after the workshop and prepare for the paradigm shift.
• Use a customized, professionally facilitated program with an instructor who is capable of dealing with issues raised and able to do more than just read the words on an overhead transparency or have them train the in-house facilitators.
Professional facilitators have the knowledge and experience to address in real-time the issues and questions raised by participants and to provide additional examples and anecdotes that can clarify questions. This type of training must be scheduled in advance and requires commitment by management and employees to ensure attendance.
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