When you hear the acronym FOD, what is your first thought? Do you hear it as Foreign Object Damage or Foreign Object Debris? Either is correct depending on when it is found. Debris is certainly the preferred option as finding the foreign object before it can cause damage is optimal.
FOD can be very costly as it can cause you thousands of dollars in damages, injures or even possibly a life; however, FOD can be mitigated or eliminated all together with constant awareness and inspection. FOD Control is a very deep and important subject but let us keep it simple here and touch on a few highlights.
FOD – Wikipedia describes it as: in aviation and aerospace, foreign object damage, is any particle or substance, alien to an aircraft or system, which could potentially cause damage. External FOD hazards include bird strikes, hail, ice, sandstorms, ash-clouds, or objects left on the runway.
FOD has also been described by SKYbrary Aviation Safety as: any object found in an inappropriate location that, as a result of being in that location, can damage equipment or injure personnel.
For maintenance personnel, FOD prevention must be a top priority while maintaining aircraft. All loose hardware must be placed in appropriate containers such as screw bags. Cut safety wire should be removed from the aircraft and disposed of properly and, of course, all tools must be returned to designated locations in the toolbox.
Tool Control is a must! A mechanic’s toolbox should have all drawers shadowed and should have a detailed inventory list. As an extra precaution at our facility, mechanics keep a binder with up-to-date pictures of each toolbox drawer. Tools are accounted for each morning, after each task and at the end of the day. If a tool is determined to be missing, all operations stop until that tool is located or determined not to be a safety factor.
Just to mention a few of the items that I have found over the years include: pilers, scratch awl, inspection mirrors, screws, bolts, washers, cut safety wire, cut electrical wires, cut cotter pins, bird nest, dead bird and most unusual, a 38-caliber bullet in the circuit breaker panel.
FOD prevention is everyone’s responsibility and is a never-ending process. The buck stops with you and me. FOD prevention is just another tool that will ensure everyone goes home safely at the end of the day.
Please remember… FOD can be reduced or eliminated with constant awareness and inspection. A place for every tool and every tool in its place.
About the author: Mark dedicated the majority of his career serving the helicopter EMS community from Base Mechanic to Director of Maintenance. As Vice President & General Manager of Precision Aircraft Services, Mark now serves helicopter operators from many sectors to include Air Ambulance, Law Enforcement, Private Owners, etc. When not at work, Mark can be found spending time with his family or sitting in a tree stand.