Personal Protection

Aircraft repair and maintenance poses many challenges, including exposure to numerous hazards.


The good news is that according to the U.S. Department of Labor, aviation technicians are not on the list of “Most Hazardous Careers.” In fact it goes on to say our “work is not inherently dangerous” yet yields job-related injuries that are only somewhat higher than similar professions.

Considering risks in our industry include exposure to hazardous materials, weather, electrical shock, burns, motion hazards, and horrendous noise levels we as a profession appear to cover ourselves admirably. In recent times programs such as safety management systems (SMS) have come to light with the intent of further reducing the risks that encompass the work we do.

Avionics specialists, at least in my generation, were the guys perceived to have clean hands spending most of their days in an air-conditioned shop with paper cuts being about as bad as it gets in the work-related injury category.

Hindsight is a word that pretty much always describes an event that was avoidable and in our industry the results are almost always expensive and potentially hazardous. Risk management has been a fact of life and in many cases is practiced unconsciously. When we think about potential hazards prior to undertaking a project, methods, techniques, and protective gear can be utilized to minimize risks. Like all skills, assessing hazards and risks requires ongoing refinement and the only way to achieve competency is through practice and repetition.

Workplace violence

Workplace violence has either directly or indirectly impacted about one-half of the work force in the United States. Aviation maintenance is a profession notorious for exposure to stressful situations; it generally has devastating and often long-term results including physical or emotional injury and can affect the morale of employees not directly involved in the encounter. This is frequently predictable and can be diffused when warning signs are heeded. Most cases are a result of elevated stress levels awaiting a trigger such as prolonged harassment or perceived bullying and have been known to trigger violent retaliatory strikes. Other prompts include feelings of unfairness, a situation getting out of control, and “it’s personal.”

Most people who commit a violent act in the workplace will advertise it in advance through words and actions. Employees in tune with their co-workers should alert supervisors when a colleague is exhibiting abnormal personality traits and all warning signs should be taken seriously. In most of the cases ending in tragedy, ample forewarning was exhibited but either not reported or not acted on.

It is important for organizations to have workplace violence policies in place and ensure all employees have a clear understanding of necessary actions.

Hand and wrist injuries

Most of us entrusted to ensuring airworthiness have learned our profession requires use of the mind as well as the hands. Researchers have determined that hand and wrist injuries are the most costly. Not only do they require significant funds for treatment but the loss of productivity of a skilled person can be detrimental not only to the employee but the employer as well.

Wrist damage can occur over time and does not necessarily require any one traumatic event. Improper ergonomics while at a computer keyboard or test bench may cause progressive deterioration resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome.

In our trade it is not uncommon for hands or fingers to get in the way of tools or machinery resulting in pain and suffering. Awareness of risks can often enable the potential victim to prepare in advance with proper hand protection. Gloves are multifaceted protection and are fabricated from a variety of materials based on the hazard for which they will protect. Gloves provide safeguards against thermal conditions, chemicals, and even mechanical hazards. Using the proper type in conjunction with a good fit is essential.

Sunlight and cancer

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