Aviation and aerospace have a multitude of regulations when it comes to safety. One of the biggest problems that has plagued the industry is foreign object debris (FOD). FOD refers to any substance, loose item, debris, or even wildlife that can cause damage to aircraft or injure personnel. FOD prevention is a key concern for safety and aircraft maintenance.
Industry regulations dictate that FBO’s and MRO’s need to have a plan in place to address FOD. While there may be some debate about how comprehensive an FOD plan must be, the best kind of plan is one that works. Many airlines and MRO’s have found that “buy-in” is required from every employee for a program to be effective.
The first step of any FOD program focuses on FOD prevention. This is broken down into 3 key areas:
While it may seem obvious, all employees must be on the same page about FOD prevention. Communication is key. Let each person affected by the changes know that FOD is a major priority. This can be accomplished by a group meeting or seminar, make sure that attendance is mandatory. Provide a summary of the information covered on a hand-out that employees can use for reference.
Unable to gather everyone for a meeting? Post FOD awareness signage or use letters and hand-outs. Operations that have a high likelihood of debris have gone as far as to have a dedicated FOD bulletin board. The bulletin board is used not just for communicating FOD best practices, but can also be used to track and communicate FOD effectiveness. This can create additional motivation from employees when they can see the effect of their increased efforts to reduce FOD.
Smaller companies actually make the process of implementing a FOD prevention program into a fun event. One company actually uses a “Gripes” report where all aviation personnel can write down all issues that need to be addressed to prevent FOD. Other programs issue FOD shirts and other giveaways.
Every FOD program must have a documented, validated training process. Although it may be tempting to use a more informal program that requires less planning upfront, it will be more work in the long run. Determine what key elements should be covered in FOD prevention training. Identify a cause and effect relationship between FOD efforts and success.
Once you have a clear outline of the process, document it. Decide if the training will occur at a meeting, in small, groups, or be self-guided. What resources will you need to create for training? Are there any resources such as videos, checklists, are articles that you can use for free or at low cost? Will you need external help from another agency (such as the FAA)?
Are there any tools that you can use to make FOD prevention faster or easier? Some technicians utilize check lists or spreadsheets to insure that tools aren’t left behind. Some MRO’s have begun adopting radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to ensure that every piece of equipment is accounted for. Radar is also available that can detect wildlife that could get too close to aircraft. Whichever tools you choose, make sure that you are able to train each employee how to properly use them.
Validate training to ensure that it is working. Although tests aren’t popular, it is one way to ensure that everyone understands the key concepts covered. Some companies have employee’s role play what they would do to prevent FOD in a specific situation. One company explained that they have technicians and management work in cross-functional groups quarterly to talk through and evaluate FOD education and processes.
The best way to make sure that any FOD prevention program is a success is to assign ownership to the process. While many companies elect a health & safety or quality manager to fulfill these responsibilities, other companies choose to elect aircraft technicians or maintenance personnel since they are closer to the everyday processes. Regardless of who you choose, make sure that the FOD prevention owner is someone that stays up to date on FOD news and best practices.
Remember that training is not a one-time event. Make sure that new hires are provided with FOD training during their orientation period. Provide refresher training and literature at specific intervals throughout the year. Plan annual meetings to review the plan for FOD training and processes in the future.
Keep in mind that prevention is only one part of addressing FOD. While buy-in and education are key components of a FOD plan, sustainability is what will keep momentum going. Stay on top of industry news and best practices to further refine and enhance your FOD prevention processes.