A good safety culture can bring commercial benefits to MRO facilities, says Simon Francis.
Working at height is an everyday occurrence for MROs, so it makes sense to build a strong safety culture throughout the maintenance teams and a procedure for working quickly, maintaining aircraft professionally, efficiently and safely, will help a business grow.
And yet everyone knows the correlation between productivity and profitability, especially in the aviation industry where delays can cost millions as the clock ticks on, and an aircraft remains in the hangar when it should be in the air. When an accident occurs, it reverberates through the workforce.
They talk about it; it lingers in psyches, and has a negative impact on morale, and consequently, productivity.
What about the wider implications for the company? Any contravention in legislation could bring a fine, but potentially more costly is the reputational damage an accident can bring. If an accident occurs, what does that say about the attention to detail and the care and attention given to aircraft in the hangar?
Working on a wing of an Airbus A380 once it’s jacked-up can mean it’s anywhere between 8-10m off the ground, and that’s not the highest part by any means, with the fuselage and vertical stabiliser heights can reach between 15-20m.
Due to the non-linear nature of aircraft, they can be challenging workplaces, but if fall protection gives peace of mind and two free hands to work with, a task can be carried out faster and more efficiently.
Once technicians can see for themselves how safety equipment can be a true enabler in working quickly and professionally, the adoption of working-at-height systems becomes automatic. In many cases, the workforce feels more valued, and the company is more likely to retain its employees, an important factor in the industry.
Of course, potential injury isn’t confined to a fall from the latest, biggest aircraft. With some smaller models, it is essential to check that any lanyards or rope attachment are shorter than the height to the ground for obvious reasons, but it is a question that all hangar managers should ask: “Is this system truly suitable for my set-up?”
From a practical point of view, small time-savings can add up when there is pressure to save on precious turnaround time.
Take a state-of-the-art hangar for A380s. Part of the set-up procedure for maintenance is erecting the staging and docking and getting the GSE in place so that once that aircraft enters the hangar, work can begin.
If wing work is involved, the vacuum-anchors can be installed immediately, to be operational as soon as the aircraft is ready, instead of being retrieved from the stores. Extrapolate that time-saving across the weeks an aircraft will be worked on and it makes a significant contribution to turnaround time.
It is not just in the hangar that the safety culture needs to be focussed on. Line maintenance sends workers out on the ramp in all weathers, and work is carried out with the acute awareness that revenue and operations can be heavily impacted by unnecessary delays.
Again, vacuum anchors should be used for work on the wings, fuselage or stabilisers, in both dry or wet weather conditions. For WinGrip, it can be used during refuelling as it is pneumatically driven, with no risk of sparks.
Note: Simon Francis is International Sales Manager at MSA Latchways for WinGrip, the only vacuum anchor recommended by Boeing and Airbus in their AMMs