Safety Programs Are Needed for Maintenance Operations
By Michelle Garetson
There's a poster on the wall in the Aviation Safety program department at the University of Southern California that reads, "Accidents are caused by normal people doing normal things in an abnormal environment."
Michael Barr, Director of the Aviation Safety Program at USC, said that the focus of the program is to teach the decision makers, i.e. directors of maintenance, directors of quality control, of an organization or facility. Issues stressed are accident prevention, risk analysis, management cultures, forming safety committees, and human factors as to how and why incidents happen. These are not user-oriented safety practices, but conceptual plans to build upon. "We help set up the frame of the house,"explains Barr, "you put in the furniture. Each maintenance operation is different and will require a different setup. By giving managers the framework, they can take this plan back to their facility and their people, and form the type of program that will be best suited for their needs."
This year's theme at the International Aviation Maintenance Conference was "Safety in Maintenance Through Global Interface." Guest speakers from countries such as Great Britain, Canada, China, Russia and Japan, as well as from the United States, shared maintenance safety concerns and proposals in an effort to better the situation for all involved.
The focal points of the speeches were not necessarily on accidents, but more on preventative measures to reduce incidents in the workplace and in the air. Topics varied widely from the larger scenarios of Challenges of Global Business Aviation Maintenance, and The Role of Aviation Repair Stations in a Global Economy, to the more defined subjects of Maintenance Documentation, and Human Factors Training programs.
Several speakers presented on the human factors in maintenance issue, an issue which originated as a result of the 1988 Aloha Airlines disaster. Nearly a decade later, much has been proposed and implemented as a way to further reduce the chances for incidents occurring on the ground and in the air. While it has been reported that only about 15 percent of incidents are the result of maintenance errors, it is often the first item under scrutiny following an accident. It is tangible and quantifiable, unlike human error, which lends itself to speculation and is much harder for the carrier to respond to with respect to what actually caused the event.
Tony Ingham, of the Civil Aviation Authority Safety Regulation Group in the UK, spoke of the Joint Aviation Authorities' (JAA) efforts for developing and maintaining a human factors training program. At present, the JAA is working to form a practical and specific set of guidelines to help shape a standard approach to achieving maximum safety benefits for all personnel involved. Ingham cited the objective of human factors training is "... to influence the individual's behavior and attitudes to achieve improved maintenance management and team work. This can be obtained through awareness of the human performance limitations, the origin of human errors, and the effect of contribution of factors and through the building of personal skills to manage human factors issues."
As for the implementation of such a program, the main characteristics of maintenance human factors training involves technicians, supervisors, engineers — anyone affected directly or indirectly in aircraft maintenance. The curriculum would be presented in workshop format through the use of case studies and practice with feedback, in order to get participants involved in discussions in an effort to reinforce concepts. These non-technical skills, such as communication, decision making, assertiveness, team work, stress management, and conflict resolution, can be incorporated into the technical training and reinforced through recurrency training.
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