That’s the Job

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Michael Boquette

Of all the lessons I learned as an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force, this may be the most important.

We had finished a brake change on the main landing gear of the KC-135, one of the primary refueling aircraft in the Air Force inventory. However a test on the anti-skid device failed and the part required replacement. Typically a common part, we ordered it from supply and cleaned up the area. Then, supply called my supervisor and told him the part wasn’t on the base and the closest one would take two days to arrive.

My supervisor hung up the phone with the supply officer and disappeared for an hour. When he returned, he had a small box with the anti-skid part inside. We quickly installed it and the aircraft was ready to launch.

When I asked him how he found the part, he replied, “That’s the job.” He explained that anyone can install four bolts, safety-wire, change a tire, or refuel an aircraft, but what separated an outstanding mechanic from an average mechanic was the understanding that relationships, influence, and negotiation were as much a part of the job than anything in the toolbox. In fact, sometimes that was THE job.

How about in EHS?

Have you ever known someone who thought that the job was writing a list of hazards and handing the list to someone else to take care of? Or that getting through 58 safety training slides was the job?

Thinking that the job is only (or even primarily) pointing out non-compliance or delivering training is a sure way to become frustrated and jaded with the work.

So whether you’re in charge of aircraft maintenance or an organization’s safety program, ask yourself today, “What the real job here?”

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