Home · Blog · Ergonomics : Human Factors & Ergonomics in Aviation Maintenance.

Aviation is a complex and highly regulated industry that demands unwavering attention to safety, with safety relying heavily on maintenance.  

Behind the scenes, a multitude of individuals work tirelessly to ensure that every flight operates smoothly. CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority), regulates the aviation industry in Australia; they license pilots & engineers, register aircraft and oversee all aspects of safety. One critical aspect of aviation safety is the focus on Human Factors (HF) & Ergonomics. These factors encompass the knowledge, skills, abilities, and limitations of individuals involved in aviation maintenance and support.

It is common for aviation work to be completed in adverse conditions including evenings or early mornings, in confined spaces, up on high platforms, and in varied temperatures and humidity, consequently it becomes crucial for HF specialists to look at fatigue of engineers, flight crew, ground crew and air traffic controllers.

Human Factors & Ergonomics is a multidisciplinary field that generates and compiles information about human capabilities and limitations. Ergonomic specialist then apply these factors to design, development, and evaluation of equipment, systems, facilities, procedures, jobs, environments, staffing, organisations, and personnel management for safe, efficient, and effective human performance.

Application of Human factors & Ergonomics in aviation.

Human Factors & Ergonomics refers to the interplay between people, their work environment, and the tools they use. It recognises that humans are fallible and prone to errors, and aims to design systems that account for these limitations. Since the aviation industry recognised that human error underlies more aviation incidents than mechanical error, the importance of Human factors has been acknowledged. The British Airways pilot that was almost sucked out of a plane shortly after takeoff in Birmingham, 1990, is a classic example of an incident of human error in which the wrong-length bolts were used to replace the windscreen. They were only wrong in length, by a few mm.  A subtle but critical difference, not easily detected by a time-constrained worker.

With this in mind, the human factors approach is founded on the principle that products and systems must be designed to human capabilities and limitations and to tolerate human error.  

Reducing Human Error

By analysing previous incidents, such as the above example, researches  identified common human error patterns and proposed strategies to minimise them. For instance, fatigue, stress, and distraction can impair an individual’s ability to perform critical tasks. Implementing measures to mitigate these factors, such as well-designed shift schedules and effective workload management, can significantly reduce the likelihood of human error.

Designing for Human Performance

The design of aviation systems, equipment, and procedures plays a critical role in human performance and safety. Human-centered design principles consider the capabilities and limitations of the individuals who will be using the systems. Ergonomically designed workspaces, intuitive interfaces, and standardised procedures can all contribute to reducing human error and improving safety. A significant achievement resulting from human factors guidance is the implementation of the crucial mandatory requirement that separates the Licensed Aviation Maintenance Engineer (LAME), responsible for safety-critical work, from the task inspection and approval. This additional layer of safety, enhances the overall integrity of the process.  

Communication and Teamwork

Aviation maintenance and support rely heavily on effective communication and teamwork. It is important to foster a culture where open communication is encouraged and where individuals feel comfortable reporting errors or safety concerns. Establishing clear lines of communication and promoting teamwork can enhance collaboration, reduce misunderstandings, and ultimately contribute to a safer aviation environment.

Continuous Learning and Improvement

Aviation safety is an evolving field, with the need for continuous learning and improvement. By conducting safety assessments, collecting data, and analysing trends, organisations can identify areas for improvement and implement proactive measures to address potential risks. Embracing a culture of learning and adaptability ensures that human factors considerations remain at the forefront of aviation safety initiatives.

The applications of human factors and ergonomics in aviation safety is a complex endeavor that relies on the meticulous consideration of design and planning by ergonomic experts. It is important to understand and address human limitations to ensure the highest level of safety in the industry. By recognising the impact of human factors on performance, providing adequate training, promoting effective communication, designing systems with human capabilities in mind, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, we can strive towards a safer and more reliable aviation environment for all.

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