Aviation Industry

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Human Factors Are Involved In Aviation

Human Factors Are Involved In Aviation


Maintenance is essential to aviation safety, yet improper maintenance contributes to a significant proportion of aviation accidents and incidents. This is because a small percentage of maintenance tasks are performed incorrectly or are omitted due to human error. Examples include parts installed incorrectly, missing parts, and the omission of necessary checks. While precise statistics are unavailable, it is likely that the great majority of maintenance errors are inconsequential, however, a small proportion present significant safety threats. In comparison to many other threats to aviation safety, the mistakes of maintenance personnel can be more difficult to detect, and have the potential to remain latent, affecting the safe operation of aircraft for longer periods of time. (Hobbs, 2007)

While acknowledging that maintenance personnel are responsible for their actions, it must also be recognized that, in many cases, the errors of maintenance technicians are the visible manifestation of problems with roots deep in the organization. A careful examination of each error, combined with a preparedness to inquire into why the error occurred, can help to identify underlying organizational problems. Effective countermeasures to maintenance error require a systemic approach, not only towards issues at the level of the technician and their work environment, but also to organizational factors such as procedures, task scheduling and training. Some countermeasures to the threat of maintenance error are directed at reducing the probability of error through improvements to training, equipment, the work environment and other conditions. A second, complementary, approach is to acknowledge that despite the best efforts, it is not possible to eliminate all maintenance errors, and countermeasures must be put in place to make systems more resilient to those residual maintenance errors that are not prevented.

Aviation organizations are increasingly introducing safety management systems (SMS) that go beyond legal compliance with rules and regulations, and instead emphasize continual improvement through the identification of hazards and the management of risk. The activities involved in managing the risk of maintenance error can be appropriately included within the SMS approach. Key activities include internal incident reporting and investigation systems, human factors awareness for maintenance personnel, and the continual identification and treatment of uncontrolled risks. (Learmount, 2004)


Without the intervention of maintenance personnel, equipment used in complex technological systems such as aviation, rail and marine transport, and medicine would drift towards a level of unreliability that would rapidly threaten efficiency and safety. Despite the essential contribution of maintenance to system reliability, maintenance is also a major cause of system failure. The rate of power station outages increases shortly after maintenance, maintenance quality is a major concern in the chemical industry, and in aviation there is evidence that maintenance is contributing to an increasing proportion of accidents. As automated systems become increasingly common, humans are performing less direct manual control of equipment and systems. As a result, maintenance is becoming a major remaining point of direct interaction between people and technology, where human capabilities and limitations can have a significant impact on system safety ...
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