By STEVEN ALAN BALL
If you are just starting out I welcome you to some very interesting work. My FOD Prevention beginnings were typical: one hour of training in my new duties.
The FOD Program Manager before me had retired and wasn’t there to provide any insight. There were few files or records. The airfield had blowing trash and debris on it. I had two aircraft engines shipped out to the Depot for preventable FOD damage repairs during my first five months in the job. Quarterly briefings weren’t done in compliance with major command directives. I found people leaving tools and hardware loose on top of aircraft or upstairs in the cabin area when they left the area for breaks. People washing the jets would complain about being splashed by bird droppings before they could get the clean jets towed out of the wash rack. Our flexible fiber optic scopes were old and obsolete.
I wanted to purchase some needed equipment, but we didn’t have the funding. With about seventeen guys in Quality Assurance (QA) competing for two vehicles on a daily basis, mobility was a big problem. But I got started. The Air Force puts Foreign Object Damage into two general categories: preventable and non-preventable FOD. Simply stated, your organization will have to explain each time an aircraft is damaged whether or not someone could have stopped it from happening. If you find that it was preventable, what are you going to do to keep it from happening again?
Even non-preventable FOD can sometimes be avoided. Take bird strikes for instance. Though listed as a non-preventable FOD event, your aircraft may have been flying at a time of day when bird activity was known to peak, especially during migration season. In this case your Safety Officer or Airfield Manager should be able to help you ensure that aircraft schedulers are not inadvertently putting aircraft in harm’s way. It’s always best to take a close look at each FOD event to see what can be done to prevent a recurrence — preventable or not.
Go see the boss. Don’t waste valuable time. Does your boss know the duties of the job and how to lend support to your program? You might have to educate them. Find out what he or she expects of you. Discuss the strong and weak areas of your program. Be honest and up front. You’ll save time and get problems addressed right at the start. Share your short-term plans for problem areas. What long-term permanent solutions can you build on together? Your boss should be leaning forward with you to make FOD Prevention the strongest program it can be.
Visit maintenance work centers and create a team environment. I started at the work centers I knew and slowly branched out from there. Be sensitive to shift change and work schedules so that when you visit they will have time to talk with you. It is your responsibility to learn and understand their mission, and tie FOD prevention into something meaningful for the people you are talking to. Encourage feedback. Do they mention that you’re the first FOD Manager they’ve seen? Be sure you’re not the last, and visit often.
Establish a conference philosophy with Maintenance Managers and Superintendents. Make appointments to discuss issues or concerns. Always go to them. Use any opportunity to talk FOD, but avoid being a nuisance. Be a cheerful and considerate visitor. Participate in FOD Walks. Pick up FOD whenever you see it. Always politic and campaign for better FOD control. The bottom line is, if you don’t believe in it and set a positive example, no one will.
The “Basic 10” Rules To Evangelize
- Keep your vehicles free from trash: inside and out.
- Always account for your tools when you enter the flight line.
- Use good housekeeping. Clean up after your work areas as you progress with the job.
- Never pass tools on to the next shift. Always turn them in to ensure accountability.
- Immediately report any lost object or tool so you can get help locating it quickly.
- Check your tires at all entry control points before driving onto flight-line areas.
- Bag your trash before disposal so it can’t get loose and blow around.
- Call the airfield manager if you see a flight-line area that needs to be cleaned up with a sweeper.
- Take FOD Walks seriously. Spend the extra time to pick up anything you see, no matter how small.
- Remember, it takes each and every one of us to form the protective barrier to shield our jets from FOD and keep our people safe.
Bring passion to this work. Is FOD Prevention important to you? People need to see that. They want to help you, but they have other problems of their own. Some will only join your efforts if they can see something in it for them. Others will help out of a love of the job, serving their country or even a higher calling. Whatever the reason, find every avenue to enlist their help. Education in this business is key, my friend. Plan, implement and execute an educational program that keeps FOD on everybody’s front burner. (You may even find yourself educating many of your senior officers.) Do this by sharing your current FOD problems with everyone. Use the resources available on this website to keep the audience’s interest up. Lecturing is definitely out. Tactfully sharing your knowledge, hopes and ideas with your folks makes FOD Prevention their project, too.
Want to learn more? Contact us for guidance on developing your FOD program.