Saturday, July 19, 2014

Human Factors

My Human Factors training is not yet up for renewal, but I'm looking at notes on the training materials we used last time. They were aimed at the maintainer, not the pilot.

The main benefit of this is realizing how many shortcuts and errors maintenance personnel make. If I take a shorcut, it works or doesn't that day. If they do, their not-quite-right repair or incompletely inspected part might be in there, waiting to kill me for another 500 hours.

Some of the "good practice" and "bad practice" sample conversations from the videos sound just like ones I hear in the hangar, especially the one on the "Lack of Awareness" item. It could be a recording from folks I know. It's a personality trait of maintainers to be proud of their knowledge and to enjoy catching each other out. 

"I thought the tag was good enough."
"Nope, you have to test an aircraft component."

I'm still not sure whether it was an error that I received the maintenance-specific training, or it was just intended as general training with all the examples coming from another specialty. Helicopter pilots must have to suffer that indignity all the time, attending general courses where the examples are all from fixed wing experience. A person should see his or herself reflected in instructional materials, to make it feel relevant and applicable. That goes for gender, race, job, type of operation, and type of aircraft. Even though we know we're all people, working with equipment, there's something about "that's someone like me doing what I do" that makes us sit up and take note.

 That said, lot of advice is applicable across disciplines and the though required to transpose it forces one to think about it a little more. For example the course recommends the maintainer think, "I am a qualified technician, not an idiot. I know what information I need to have to assess and repair this damage." At least I assume she's meant to think that and not say it out loud to her supervisor. Likewise I am a qualified pilot, not an idiot. I know what information I need to plan and conduct a flight."  But that's not something I ever really need to say. People don't hurry me or demand I fly with inadequate weather information or poor equipment.

Maybe this one is more useful: "Safety nets" for stress are being aware of how stress can impact your work, stepping back and rationally analyzing the problem, rationally determining what to do and then doing it, talking to others, asking others to check your work, taking time off or at least taking short breaks, keeping fit and healthy, and using assertive communication."

Stress can definitely affect my work. It can affect the thoroughness of my preflight, the amount of sleep I get, the way I treat my coworkers and my concentration on the job. I ask others to check my logic and my arithmetic. I have a day off today and I just came back from a 7.5 km run. The badder ass you know you are, the more confidence you have to step up and stand up for what you need for safety.

The best one is the advice to look for negative norms, then openly talk about them and work at changing them. It's also very difficult. Fish don't see the water, and it's hard to persuade people that the thing they do all the time, might even take pride in as a source of efficiency, may be a safety risk.

I'll make it my mission to find a negative norm at work this week.


Anonymous said...

That you are reviewing a maintenance course may be an accident, but I think it a good one. Knowing their language, routines, pitfalls etc. can only help you to catch some of the things that could eventually hurt you. Other than your precious time, is there any harm? You do not need to become an experienced 'wrench' to understand them and their culture. They certainly do not want to hurt you, yet most of them are not pilots. Help them. Be polite, yet professionally firm in every encounter. And never, repeat NEVER accept obviously substandard or unsigned work. It is possible to Fly Safe in older aircraft, but it requires a pilot that understands her/his machine at least as well as the wrenches do. When in doubt, you can always ask the wrench to ride along on the post-op text flight. If he declines, don't fly. (Apparently, all of the Bad Ones are Guys...)
Fly on, madam!

RTD8450 said...

Well said!! Given your obvious care, skill and professionalism, this ol' fart would be thrilled to fly with you. Anytime. Anywhere!

Majroj said...

When fishing for Negative Norms (I knew a Discouraging Dennis once), go to the company's resident carrier of history and knowledge. She or he may be wrong about why something is best done the wrong but traditional way, but knowing where the turn to mayhem was made and why can given you a lever to get things fixed…such as, "If we do this because Grandpa Charlie's Jenny did so and so in 1920, why are we doing that to our Merlins now?".