Eliminating Maintenance Mishaps
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 3 JOSEPH S. VALLEROY
3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)
When the commander needs an aircraft, you can bet a Soldier from the maintenance shop will be eagerly standing by to ensure he or she gets it. Unfortunately, sometimes this on-demand convenience leads to Soldiers moving around aircraft quicker than they usually would.
A piece of ground support equipment that crew chiefs frequently rely on is the low-level maintenance platform. Measuring just one-sixteenth of an inch over 4 feet, this piece of equipment is ideal for working on aircraft. Employing it eliminates the need for the cumbersome B1 maintenance stand. So if maintenance is easier, it’s always safer too, right? Not necessarily.
There isn’t a general maintenance manual for the low-level maintenance platform, and this has created a problem with the serviceability of the equipment. The only reference material for the stand is located on the Aviation Ground Support Equipment website. Without guidance and enforcement, the platforms sometimes go without preventive maintenance checks and services and end up a safety hazard.
As the production control officer in charge, I’ve seen some stands with excessively corroded wheel assemblies, rendering the universal brake mechanisms unserviceable. In this condition, it’s difficult to secure and position a stand in the work area safely. When a maintenance platform is used in a double-stacked position (which is common practice), it is unstable and an accident waiting to happen. I’ve seen a Soldier fall from a maintenance platform and end up with stitches.
The low-level maintenance platform meets the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a mobile work platform (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.29 (e) and (f)). It is crucial, however, that supervisors ensure their Soldiers are trained on the use, care and maintenance of this equipment. When the platform is in the open position, there needs to be eight stable feet on the floor, which will keep the stand from rolling when weight is applied.
An alternate to a low-level maintenance platform is a mobile ladder stand that Soldiers who need the height to work around engine cowlings can easily put in place and use safely. Using a mobile ladder stand that complies with the 29 CFR 1910 is a safer and less expensive alternative to the low-level maintenance platform. These ladders have caster wheels and footpads that lock into place when weight is applied for use in the hangars.
It is important that aviation maintenance technicians stay engaged in hangar and shop operations. Tools that our Soldiers use may be unsafe and unserviceable; we’ll never know until we check or if there’s a mishap. Our commanders are relying on us to be the eyes and ears of safety for our organizations. Engaged leadership leads to productive maintenance units, thus preventing unnecessary injuries that reduce morale, quality and combat effectiveness.