Aviation Workshop Safety

Keeping the shop, hangars, and flight line clean is essential to safety and efficient maintenance. The highest standards of orderly work arrangements and cleanliness must be observed during the maintenance of aircraft. Where continuous work shifts are established, the outgoing shift removes and properly stores personal tools, rollaway boxes, work stands, maintenance stands, hoses, electrical cords, hoists, crates, and boxes that were needed for the work to be accomplished.

Signs are posted to indicate dangerous equipment or hazardous conditions. Additionally, there are signs that provide the location of first aid and fire equipment. Safety lanes, pedestrian walkways, and fire lanes are painted around the perimeter inside the hangars. This is a safety measure to prevent accidents and to keep pedestrian traffic out of work areas.

Safety is everyone’s business. However, technicians and supervisors must watch for their own safety and for the safety of others working around them. Communication is key to ensuring everyone’s safety. If other personnel are conducting their actions in an unsafe manner, communicate with them, reminding them of their safety and that of others around them.

Electrical Safety

Physiological Safety

Working with electrical equipment poses certain physiological safety hazards. When electricity is applied to the human body, it can create severe burns in the area of entrance and at the point of exit from the body. In addition, the nervous system is affected and can be damaged or destroyed. To safely deal with electricity, the technician must have a working knowledge of the principles of electricity and a healthy respect for its capability to do both work and damage.

Wearing or use of proper safety equipment can provide a psychological assurance and physically protect the user at the same time. The use of rubber gloves, safety glasses, rubber or grounded safety mats, and other safety equipment contributes to the overall safety of the technician working on or with electrical equipment.

Two factors that affect safety when dealing with electricity are fear and overconfidence. These two factors are major causes of accidents involving electricity. While a certain amount of respect for electrical equipment is healthy and a certain level of confidence is necessary, extremes of either can be deadly.

Lack of respect is often due to lack of knowledge. Personnel who attempt to work with electrical equipment and have no knowledge of the principles of electricity lack the skills to deal with electrical equipment safely. Overconfidence leads to risk taking. The technician who does not respect the capabilities of electricity will, sooner or later, become a victim of electricity’s power.

Fire Safety

Anytime current flows, whether during generation or transmission, a by-product is heat. The greater the current flow, the greater the amount of heat created. When this heat becomes too great, protective coatings on wiring and other electrical devices can melt, causing shorting. That in turn leads to more current flow and greater heat. This heat can become so great that metals can melt, liquids vaporize, and flammable substances ignite.

An important factor in preventing electrical fires is to keep the area around electrical work or electrical equipment clean, uncluttered, and free of all unnecessary flammable substances. Ensure that all power cords, wires, and lines are free of kinks and bends that can damage the wire. Never place wires or cords where they may be walked on or run over by other equipment. When several wires inside a power cord are broken, the current passing through the remaining wires increases. This generates more heat than the insulation coatings on the wire are designed to withstand and can lead to a fire. Closely monitor the condition of electrical equipment. Repair or replace damaged equipment before further use.

Safety Around Compressed Gases

Compressed air, like electricity, is an excellent tool when it is under control. A typical nitrogen bottle set is shown in Figure 1.

Safety Around Compressed Gases
Figure 1. A typical nitrogen bottle

The following “dos and don’ts” apply when working with or around compressed gases:
  • Inspect air hoses frequently for breaks and worn spots. Unsafe hoses must be replaced immediately.
  • Keep all connections in a “no-leak condition.”
  • Maintain in-line oilers, if installed, in operating condition.
  • Ensure the system has water sumps installed and drained at regular intervals.
  • Filter air used for paint spraying to remove oil and water.
  • Never use compressed air to clean hands or clothing. Pressure can force debris into the flesh leading to infection.
  • Never spray compressed air in the area of other personnel.
  • Straighten, coil, and properly store air hoses when not in use.
  • Many accidents involving compressed gases occur during aircraft tire mounting. To prevent possible personal injury, use tire dollies and other appropriate devices to mount or remove heavy aircraft tires.

When inflating tires on any type of aircraft wheels, always use tire cage guards. Extreme caution is required to avoid over inflation of high-pressure tires because of possible personal injury. Use pressure regulators on high-pressure air bottles to eliminate the possibility of over inflation of tires. Tire cages are not required when adjusting pressure in tires installed on an aircraft.

Safety Around Hazardous Materials

Material safety diamonds are important with regard to shop safety. These diamond-shaped labels are a simple and quick way to determine the risk of hazardous material within the associated container and, if used properly with the tags, indicate what personal safety equipment to use.

The most observable portion of the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)) label is the risk diamond. It is a four-color segmented diamond that represents flammability (red), reactivity (yellow), health (blue), and special hazard (white). In the flammability, reactivity, and health blocks, there is a number from 0 to 4. Zero represents little or no hazard to the user, while 4 means that the material is very hazardous. The special hazard segment contains a word or abbreviation to represent the specific hazard. Some examples are RAD for radiation, ALK for alkali materials, Acid for acidic materials, and CARC for carcinogenic materials. The letter W with a line through it stands for high reactivity to water. [Figure 2]

Safety Around Hazardous Materials
Figure 2. A risk diamond

The SDS is a more detailed version of the chemical safety issues. These forms have the detailed breakdown of the chemicals, including formulas and action to take if personnel come in contact with the chemicals. All sheets have the same information requirements; however, the exact location of the information on the sheet may vary depending on the SDS manufacturer. These forms are necessary for a safe shop that meets all the requirements of the governing safety body, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Safety Around Machine Tools

Hazards in a shop increase when the operation of lathes, drill presses, grinders, and other types of machines are used. Each machine has its own set of safety practices. The following discussions are necessary to avoid injury.

The drill press can be used to bore and ream holes, to do facing, milling, and other similar types of operations. The following precautions can reduce the chance of injury:
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Securely clamp all work.
  • Set the proper revolutions per minute (RPM) for the material used.
  • Do not allow the spindle to feed beyond its limit of travel while drilling.
  • Stop the machine before adjusting work or attempting to remove jammed work.
  • Clean the area when finished.

Lathes are used in turning work of a cylindrical nature. This work may be performed on the inside or outside of the cylinder. The work is secured in the chuck to provide the rotary motion, and the forming is done by contact with a securely mounted tool. The following precautions can reduce the chance of injury:
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Use sharp cutting tools.
  • Allow the chuck to stop on its own. Do not attempt to stop the chuck by hand pressure.
  • Examine tools and work for cracks or defects before starting the work.
  • Do not set tools on the lathe. Tools may be caught by the work and thrown.
  • Before measuring the work, allow it to stop in the lathe.

Milling machines are used to shape or dress; cut gear teeth, slots, or key ways; and similar work. The following precautions can reduce the chance of injury:
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Clean the work bed prior to work.
  • Secure the work to the bed to prevent movement during milling.
  • Select the proper tools for the job.
  • Do not change the feed speed while working.
  • Lower the table before moving under or away from the work.
  • Ensure all clamps and bolts are passable under the arbor.

Grinders are used to sharpen tools, dress metal, and perform other operations involving the removal of small amounts of metal. The following precautions can reduce the chance of injury:
  • Wear eye protection, even if the grinder has a shield.
  • Inspect the grinding wheel for defects prior to use.
  • Do not force grinding wheels onto the spindle. They fit snugly but do not require force to install them. Placing side pressure on a wheel could cause it to explode.
  • Check the wheel flanges and compression washer. They should be one-third the diameter of the wheel.
  • Do not stand in the arc of the grinding wheel while operating in case the wheel explodes.

Welding must be performed only in designated areas. Any part that is to be welded must be removed from the aircraft, if possible. Repair would then be accomplished in a controlled environment, such as a welding shop. A welding shop must be equipped with proper tables, ventilation, tool storage, and fire prevention and extinguishing equipment.

Welding on an aircraft should be performed outside, if possible. If welding in the hangar is necessary, observe these precautions:
  • During welding operations, open fuel tanks and work on fuel systems are not permitted.
  • Painting is not permitted.
  • No aircraft are to be within 35 feet of the welding operation.
  • No flammable material is permitted in the area around the welding operation.
  • Only qualified welders are permitted to do the work.
  • The welding area is to be roped off and placarded.
  • Fire extinguishing equipment of a minimum rating of 20B must be in the immediate area with 80B rated equipment as a backup.
  • Trained fire watches are to be present in the area around the welding operation.
  • The aircraft being welded must be in a towable condition, with a tug attached, and the aircraft parking brakes released. A qualified operator must be on the tug and mechanics available to assist in the towing operation should it become necessary to tow the aircraft. If the aircraft is in the hangar, the hangar doors are to be open.

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