Certified Aerospace Technician
Housekeeping: Organization and tidiness in general, as of an office, shop, etc. – Collins English Dictionary
For many people, when the term “housekeeping” comes up, they usually have a vision of chasing dust bunnies around the house, but housekeeping is not just for the home. Your workplace is your “home away from home” and housekeeping carries a much more important role for it affects not only your safety, but the safety of others and has a direct impact on the quality of work being produced.
Housekeeping is an essential task in the workplace for the aerospace technician. Proper housekeeping ensures safety, mitigates fire hazards, increased work productivity, reduces unnecessary repairs, and helps with tool control. Without housekeeping the workplace would eventually come to a grinding halt. Poor housekeeping encourages trip hazards, FOD hazards, fire hazards (both by being possibly flammable itself and/or blocking access to fire fighting equipment and exits). Oil and grease not cleaned up could ignite if exposed to a hot area of a machine or be a slip hazard if left on the floor.
Housekeeping is not something that is just done at the end of the shift. It is an ongoing task that you do alongside your job. The term “Clean as you go” refers to proper housekeeping while doing a job. If you pick up trash, put away tools when not being used anymore during the job, and keep your work area trip and hazard free during your task, you are practicing “Clean as you go.” No one wants to work beside the person who’s standing knee deep in his trash with his tools scattered all about and even encroaching into your workspace interfering with your task.
So how can you “clean as you go” in the aerospace workplace? Ensure you throw away all trash created during your job as you produce it. That requires having some sort of trash receptacle nearby that is designated for trash only. Cap all open bottles/cans when you are not using them at that moment to avoid accidental spills. Clean up all grease and oil spills as they occur; don’t leave them on the ground or hardware with the intention of “getting to it later.” Put tools away or return to logistics if your not using it anymore for the job. Stage equipment and supplies for your job that you will need later near, but not in, your work area in a orderly grouping out of the way of traffic and other people’s work areas.
If you are operating a machine in a shop, there are a set of housekeeping rules that apply to it as laid out by the book Technology of Machine Tools:
- “Always stop the machine before you attempt to clean it.
- Always keep the machine and hand tools clean. Oily surfaces can be dangerous. Metal chips left on the table surface may interfere with the safe clamping of a workpiece.
- Always use a brush and not a cloth to remove any chips. Chips stick to cloth and can cause cuts when the cloth is used later.
- Oily surfaces should be cleaned with a cloth.
- Do not place tools and materials on the machine table. Use a bench near the machine.
- Keep the floor free from oil and grease.
- Sweep up the metal chips on the floor frequently (clean as you go!). They become embedded in the soles of shoes and can cause dangerous slippage if a person walks on a terrazzo or concrete floor. Use a scraper, mounted on the floor near the door, to remove these chips before leaving the shop.
- Never place tools or materials on the floor close to a machine where they will interfere with the operator’s ability to move safely around the machine.
- Return bar stock to the storage rack after cutting off the required length (clean as you go!).
- Never use compressed air to remove chips from a machine. Not only is it a dangerous practice because of flying metal chips, but small chips and dirt can become wedged between machine parts and cause undue wear.”
As you now know, housekeeping is an essential part of safety in the workplace and should be practiced at all times. There is no need for a maid’s uniform to be a good housekeeper in the shop, just an awareness that everything has it’s place and and should be clean and ready for use the next time.
I grew up in West Virginia known for its coal mines. Accidents at coal mines were a fact of life, but I noticed personally working as a paramedic during those days, and had also read in various accident studies, that the majority of fatal accidents occurred to two distinct populations most of the time inside a coal mine: the very new employee and the very experienced employee that was near retirement.
The new employees were susceptible to accidents. Coal mines are dangerous places with a large amount of safety rules to learn and follow. New employees would sometimes forget those rules or not take them too seriously with fatal results.
What surprised me were the older and more experienced employees being involved in these types of accidents. It was found out that complacency played a large role in that. Men closer to retirement had gotten to the point that they thought they knew it all and didn’t have to be as careful as the new guys.
My father worked nearby at a large power plant that could be an unsafe place if you didn’t follow the safety rules. He had seen 3 or 4 men get killed because of safety lapses during his 35 plus years there. When he chose to retire early, I asked him why. He said, “I don’t want to be carried out feet first from work someday on a stretcher.” He knew that complacency was sneaking up on him and thought it was time to leave.
When I started at KSC, it was the first time I had worked in an industrial setting and I found that I spent more time in safety classes than all my other classes combined. With all the dangerous propellants there such as Mono Methyl Hydrazine (2 breaths, 2 steps, you’re dead.), large equipment, heights, etc., there, you had to know quite a bit about safety.
But KSC took it further. It was ingrained in their culture, and a normal farewell saying done by everyone was, “Be safe.” We had safety meetings, daily safety tips, safety emails, constant safety classes, and on and on. You could bring an entire job to a skidding stop by just saying, “I have a safety concern.” My old manager, Jay Barati, told me once that each day that everyone finishes their shift and goes home to their families is a good day.
I kidded with a co-worker one day after I had been there for about 2 months, “that these guys treat safety like a religion!” After my first brush with a MMH leak while working near the forward reaction control system, I became a staunch convert myself.
Safety begins with you. You are not only responsible for yourself, but for your co-workers. Nothing could be worse than to know that your lapse in safety caused an injury to your co-worker. Everything from your dress, conduct, and work habits should have safety as the guiding force.
We are going to start a series on safety. Of all things you take away from your aerospace courses, safety is the most important. The lessons you learn can literally save your life. Stay tuned!
“On June 10, 2011, the SpaceTEC program received formal safety approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation for the SpaceTEC Certified Aerospace Technician™ process, the first such approval of this kind.
Based at Brevard Community College on Florida’s Space Coast, SpaceTEC is the National Science Foundation’s National Resource Center for Aerospace Technical Education. Since 2004 SpaceTEC has offered the nation’s only performance-based, industry-endorsed certification for aerospace technicians in the United States.”
The FAA gave safety approval for the four current areas of the SpaceTEC program:
- Core Certification
- Aerospace Vehicle Processing
- Aerospace Manufacturing
The approval for all four areas is valid for five years.
You can read more of the announcement and what it means for the aerospace technician field here.
To the staff at SpaceTEC, well done!