The High-Risk Division of Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO)
Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facilities perform every type of aircraft repair you can imagine – replacing interior seats and carpeting, rewiring electrical harnesses and gauges, and maintaining and repairing engines, wings, or landing gear – you name it, MRO facilities touch it. Multiple times.
Mechanical work is conducted both inside and outside the plane. Mechanics, painters, cleaners, and others are up and down ladders frequently throughout their day. They often perform work overhead or within very confined compartments. Mechanics are often required to contort their bodies into a number of tight spots to complete their work. Bending, squatting, stretching, pulling, pushing, lifting, and torquing on wrenches is the heart of a mechanic’s activity. These actions lead to a high number of reportable strain/sprain and laceration injuries each year.
Aircraft work may be conducted inside the hangar or outside on the tarmac. Struck by injuries are common due to low ceiling heights inside the aircraft. Outside the aircraft, many struck by injuries are attributed to personnel walking into a wing, striking the bottom of the engine compartment when working overhead, or even being struck by other moving equipment on the tarmac.
Additional high risks associated with MRO facilities are the frequent lifting and/or moving of heavy and awkwardly shaped or weighted parts, the use of both hand and power tools, exposure to jet fuel, chemicals, and paint fumes. Ventilation is a major concern, particularly if an MRO paints on-site.
The aviation industry, as a whole, suffers a high rate of slip, trip, and fall claims. While there are a number of contributing factors (air hoses and tools lying on the ground, the frequency of work on ladders, etc.), weather may be the most serious contributing factor. A large amount of mechanical work occurs outside. Much of that work is completed from a platform ladder. Rainy conditions, snow and ice, and falling temperatures can all change the physical condition of a platform, and the worker’s footing, in an instant. Inclement weather and ladders can be a deadly combination.
Water discharge from the aircraft while servicing a lavatory can pool at a worker’s feet and create a fall or electrocution hazard. There are so many unique exposures in this industry. While it is impossible to focus on every variable at all times – work at hand, maintaining a center of gravity and footing, confined spaces, moving equipment in the work area – it is critical to be aware of your surroundings, including weather conditions, at all times.
Rapidly changing weather conditions and fast-dropping temperatures can be a game-changer. The best-maintained facility cannot keep up with every shift in conditions, particularly when we are talking about black ice and fast-forming ice on platform surfaces. Awareness is critical and cannot be emphasized enough. Sudden movements can have disastrous consequences.
Unfortunately, this industry experiences both a high frequency and a high severity of injury claims. Electrical shock, falls from heights, eye injuries, hearing damage, strain/sprain, struck by falling objects, slips on ice – all are common claims in the aviation industry. Inclement weather serves only to heighten these exposures. Claims in this sector range from minor sprains and lacerations to brain injuries, paralysis, and even death.
Make safety the top priority at your MRO facility. Establish a formal safety program, create a formal safety committee with a designated leader, and conduct JSAs on all positions. As summer fades out to rainy autumn and icy winter, be sure to promote seasonal safety awareness early and often.
Does your company have formal safety policies in place? Are you responsible for workforce safety or risk management? Email us or give us a call at (816) 349-0850 to see how we can help design a safety and risk management plan that meets your unique needs.