Rotor & Wing International

Human Factors and the A&P Tech

R&WI's newest column peeks into the maintenance perspective.

How many of you are familiar with FAA Advisory Circular (AC) 120-72 “Maintenance Resource Management Training”? Even though it was published in 2000, the anonymity of this AC is not surprising. Why? Because we know the information is “not mandatory and does not constitute a regulation,” which means ACs are often relegated to the bottom of the required reading list. However, that does not diminish their significance, and we all should be aware of their existence and importance.

The AC publications are akin to your mom having advised you to clean your room as a kid. Perhaps it was her way of saying you don’t have to comply with this advice, but you could experience negative consequences if you ignored it.

Since AC120-72 might not make for popular reading, I am sure its sequel, AC120-72A “Maintenance Human Factors (MxHF) Training,” would be met with the same familiarity, or lack thereof. And because AC120-72A is in draft form, the FAA is still accepting your input for the final version.

AC120-72A replaces its 44-page, 17-year-old ancestor. This new and improved version promises to be more focused on maintenance activities and us maintenance folks doing such activities. It “contains a detailed listing of information sources and resources that will help the reader prepare for and deliver an up-to-date MxHF program to endure continued efficiency, effectiveness, and safety in maintenance operations.”

Speaking of MxHF, let’s examine the FAA-approved definition of human factors: “A multidisciplinary field that generates and compiles information about human capabilities and limitations, and applies it to design, development and evaluation of equipment, systems, facilities, procedures, jobs, environments, staffing, organizations, and personnel management for safe, efficient, and effective human performance.”

So by using this comprehensive and reasonable explanation of the behavioral study of us Homo sapiens, it stands to reason that MxHF is specific to us Homo sapien mechanics.

Now the motivation behind this genera of AC was the result of a study on crew resource management (CRM) on flight decks and a spate of maintenance-related accidents in the mid-to-late 90s. These two events created an extensive acceptance of the importance of MxHF training and programs for maintenance environments. This was also about the time the industry “dirty dozen” was introduced. These 12 human foibles have become the supporting standard upon which MxHF presentations are constructed and around which safety programs are implemented.

For the sake of our continuing education, the dirty dozen includes: lack of communication, complacency, lack of knowledge, distraction, lack of team work, fatigue, lack of resources, pressure, lack of assertiveness, stress, lack of awareness and norms.

When were the dirty dozen first published? Which aviation regulatory agency produced the original dirty dozen?

In 1994, Transport Canada, in collaboration with the aviation community, identified 12 elements of human factors that degrade a technician’s ability to perform effectively and safely, creating an opportunity for maintenance errors.

So on that note, I’ll provide you with what is, in my opinion, the most pervasive of the dirty dozen — distraction. Distraction is defined as the thing that prevents a person from providing full attention to the assigned task.

The “thing” in the following example is the ubiquitous cellphone. Technicians cannot give full attention to inspecting a component while maintaining a personal discussion via a cellphone tucked between their shoulder and ear. Or worse, how can a technician text, tweet, email and maintain focus on the job? Can’t be done!

In my shop, tehcnicians would be banned from using a cellphone while working. The only exception would be to converse with a technician or factory tech-rep about a particular job. If a personal issue is going to generate a phone call, stop working and finish the personal business. Then when resuming the job, go back a couple of steps to insure something wasn’t forgotten.

So until next time, remember to do your job as though lives depend on it — because they do. R&WI