By September next year, all aviation maintenance staff in Europe must meet EASA’s requirements on the impact of human performance on industry safety standards

All aviation maintenance personnel in Europe must receive training by 28 September next year on the impact of human performance and errors on aircraft safety.

That is the deadline set by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for all personnel involved in any maintenance, management or quality audit tasks covered under other EASA regulations to be trained in assessing how human performance can affect areas such as design, certification, training and maintenance.

Refresher courses on the topic must also be attended every two years.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has already held its own human factors training course, and other training organisations and industry companies have developed similar courses.

Human factors training covers all the non-technical influences on the success of a maintenance operation, ranging from engineers’ knowledge level and cultural influences to their physical fitness and distractibility.

“In the early days of commercial aircraft, most accidents were caused by problems with hardware,” says Sara Evans, training director of Wynnwith Engineering, which is offering a human factors course as a result of the new rules. “Aircraft have become more reliable, hence a greater proportion of accidents are now due to human error,” she says.

“Lots of things have an impact – working shifts, working in cold or hot conditions, working with the right tools, communication, teamwork, the facilities – and these all need to be looked at.

“There needs to be an understanding of these issues throughout the organisation, which is why we are offering courses for support staff and senior managers as well as maintenance personnel.”

The courses held by Wynnwith and other companies seek to raise awareness of human factors issues and give advice on how maintenance can be carried out most safely.

For example, the CAA recommends that tasks critical to safety should be scheduled for periods when staff are most likely to be alert. It offers advice on how to manage shift lengths and shift handovers to minimise fatigue-related errors, and has details of how environmental factors, such as light, noise and temperature, can affect the efficiency of workers. It also advises how maintenance data should be recorded and made available, and details procedures for reporting and resolving potential problems.

“A mistake can be catastrophic,” says Evans, “but even smaller errors that don’t result in loss of life can cost an organisation money or reputation, if flights are delayed or an aircraft is taken out of service.”

Wynnwith launched its human factors courses last week and has already held some in Munich.

“Feedback from delegates has been positive,” says Evans. “Engineers can be fairly cynical about this sort of training, but I think they are seeing the benefits of it and how it relates to their everyday work.”

Source: Flight International