I have a classmate (known in other posts as Young Guy Who Acts Like a Crabby Old Guy) who flies into a rage every time I suggest that I know something he doesn’t know, or look at something while he’s looking at it, or after he has looked at it. Or, really, pretty much any time I exist in his presence. This is unfortunate for him, because I’m not going anywhere and he’ll have to just deal with me.

His most recent outburst happened because while my team was working with his team I asked if anyone needed help finding something in the manual and then later observed them while they were working on stuff. I know, right? I do feel horrible for using my eyeballs in his presence, but I couldn’t help it, I wanted to learn about the thing they were working on, and watching them work on it seemed like a good way to do just that.

But, anyway, it got to me to thinking about WHY I tell people about stuff in the manuals, ask questions of my teammates if I’m not sure why they did something the way they did on our project, and just generally get involved in what goes on when we fix stuff. I would love to explain this to YGWALACOG but since I probably won’t get the chance unless I want to absorb an onslaught of rage, I’ll explain it here for anyone who’s playing along at home.

The history of plane crashes is largely a history of one person getting attached to one way of doing things, or think they’ve done a step they haven’t done, or getting tunnel vision when problem solving and failing to see all the possibilities until it’s too late. These are all See here, here, and here for some examples

There’s a list of human factors that affect aircraft maintenance, known as the Dirty Dozen. The article is interesting, but if you want the short version, the Dirty Dozen are:

  • Lack of Communication
  • Distraction
  • Lack of Resources
  • Stress
  • Complacency
  • Lack of teamwork (*ahem*)
  • Pressure
  • Lack of awareness
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of assertiveness
  • Norms (meaning, norms that exist that are wrong but are the way things have always been done)

These are the factors that have been discovered to be the most likely human-caused precursors to maintenance-related safety incidents.

When I started airplane mechanic school I decided that I was going to train myself in habits that would help me do my part to combat the human error aspect of maintenance mistakes. I figured I might as well start building the habits while I trained in the technical skills so I would feel comfortable implementing them once I start working.

Believe it or not, the hardest of these to practice consistently is assertiveness, because every act of assertion takes a certain amount of emotional energy that I then don’t have available for other uses. Even though I’ll be assertive when it’s necessary, I don’t actually enjoy being yelled at or having people rage at me, even if I know it’s not really my problem.

But, assertiveness is so important, because it can combat some of the other issues – lack of awareness, lack of knowledge, complacency, norms.

And, so it’s clear that I’m not always about what I know, I also try to practice humility. If I make a mistake and someone points it out, or if someone doubts my reasons for doing something the way I did it, I listen and thank them and fight the urge to get defensive.

Posted by lesherjennifer


  1. Such a valuable approach! YGWALACOG should really get the stick out of his butt & learn something 😛



  2. […] Flickr Twitter Facebook RSS Feed ← As the Propeller Turns – Human Factors Edition […]



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