The Self-Protecting Skill Worth Developing for AMTs


Although many maintenance incidents reflect organizational problems, the maintenance technicians themselves are the last line of defense in that organization. There are things that technicians can do to reduce their chances of being involved in an incident. Most importantly, our skills, habits, beliefs and knowledge can all be changed in ways that increase the reliability of human performance.
Effective error management comes more from having an appropriate mindset than from extensive documentation. It takes Murphy’s Law at its starting point: What can go wrong will go wrong. Errors are to be expected; they are a fact of human life. Listed below are some of the most potent error-provoking factors when performing maintenance. Many of these items should look familiar; they bear a striking resemblance to the proud members of the “Dirty Dozen.”
Excessive Reliance on Memory
Our memories are not always as reliable as we think, particularly when we are tired. Memory lapses are the most common errors in maintenance.
Maintenance activities are subject to frequent interruptions – someone needs advice, you get a phone call, or (as is the case with operating a shuttle aircraft) you are called off to load bags, de-ice, etc. Whatever the nature, all such distractions act to raise your stress level and increase the likelihood of making an error.
Signs of pressure come in many forms. For example, being asked “How long is it going to take,” getting angry during a job activity, starting to curse more than usual, or being anxious to go home. Under such pressures, even the most respected technicians can find themselves leaving out steps or taking shortcuts
You may not feel tired, but if you have not had a good night’s sleep in the past few days, or have worked a lot of overtime, there is a good chance that you may be impaired by fatigue.
Inadequate Communication
A breakdown in communication is one of the most common circumstances leading to incidents. In some cases, assumptions are made about a job without communicating confirmation. Good shift change/turnover procedures are essential in communicating job status.
Unfamiliar Jobs
An example of this might be performing a task that is not part of your normal duties, or doing a task for the first time.
A further interesting note to point out is a number of maintenance incidents have involved managers/supervisors helping out by getting involved in hands-on work. Although such people may be technically qualified and highly motivated, their practical skills may be degraded.
This is any situation in which you are unsure of what is going on. It should be a sign to stop and clarify the task at hand.
Highly Routine Procedures
This is any procedure that we may become so familiar with that it may let our mind wander, essentially putting us under the control of the “mental autopilot.”
Once maintenance technicians are aware of their own vulnerabilities, we can learn to recognize human performance danger signs. The ability to appreciate the significance of these “red flags” is a self-protecting skill worth developing.
Be Safe in the Region of Risk  

Roger Hughes
Decoding Human Factors LLC.


Another great article! I know for me personally, I have probably been a victim of all of these. In fact I would also like to add one,

Environmental Factors Performing a task outside at night in the cold may be different from doing a routine task in the nicely lit hangar. It is much easier to leave a tool behind if it is dark and there is a rush to get back into warmer temperatures or less conditions.

I have found in many cases there tends to be self induced pressures to get the aircraft fixed. So this rush falls over the team because we have all been ingrained to get things fixed fast and naturally we want to be productive. The problem I have seen is that rushing to get the job done faster actually takes longer than if we just took our time and worked decent pace. Mistakes cost time and money and are more prone to happen when working in a rushed condition as this article indicates.

A good manager can spot these situations occurring and correct them before an incident actually happens but it takes a manager needing to be in tune with what is going on with his/her team.

Roger wrote a great article.To be successful we must be our own QC and Inspection department. I think Johns addition of environment as a factor is also right on. The wanting to stay employed and provide for our family is a pressure. It is not a easy job and takes a strong character as a earlier article from the Human Factors Industry News pointed out
This is not just a job, we are not just showing up and working. We must show dedication, drive and realize we are craftsman and totally responsible for our product.

I think this is an interesting article but I strongly disagree with the opening statement though. The vast majority of incidents are generated by individuals not organizations and they are for all the reasons Mr Hughes has listed.

Organizations don't rely on memory, feel pressures, get tired or interrupted etc., individuals do [get my drift?]. As a matter of fact, most organizations are designed to avoid these pitfalls especially Repair Stations. Now a days, the vast majority of FBOs have some type of SMS in place regardless of a CRS certificate.

Over and above all the regulations, guidance and safety procedures in place in today's aviation businesses, it all depends on the individual's performance. Like Bob sez, we must be our own QC in order to be safe and successful. [Great thought Bob, wish I'd have said that... Is the word plagerer or plagerizer?]

Those technicians who act as professionals, follow accepted practices and procedures and truly care about the product they put forth will always be less likely to make mistakes. It's the few "know it alls" that carry the biggest risk and are involved in most incidents. Which one are you?

OK Bob P, I concede that you have said the same thing many times ("we must be our own QC department"). I thought you would be flattered :)
Anyway, the point is that it is so important that technicians realize they are the toll gate. Everything else is just backup and insurance should something effect our performance. Every job is our own work product and the quality is set by us. To plagiarize more: we must "truly care about the product ... put forth"

Oh yeah, I was smiling from ear to ear! You know I wuz just pushing your leg...

That's my national anthem!