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Boeing employee use of ‘Speak Up’ tool increases 500% in early 2024, according to OEM’s safety report

By Skies Magazine | June 3, 2024

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 31 seconds.

An aircraft test technician trainee (left) practices working on a section of fuselage from a retired 737 alongside an employee development specialist at Boeing’s Foundational Training Center in Renton, Wash. Boeing Photo

Boeing has published its third annual Chief Aerospace Safety Officer (CASO) Report outlining the company’s progress in improving its product safety and safety culture.

The plane maker has been under fire recently following several safety incidents involving its aircraft, such as the Alaska Airlines 737-9 midair door plug blowout (January 2024), the LATAM Airlines 787 mid-air drop (March 2024), and the loss of an engine cowling on a Southwest Airlines 737-800 (April 2024). Of course, these incidents follow the 20-month grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max fleet after two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

In its CASO Report, Boeing notes that it is working on implementing changes based on safety recommendations from a Congressionally authorized and FAA-initiated expert panel. The report also highlights the company’s ongoing efforts on long-term safety initiatives with customers and industry partners.

“We are entrusted with the safety of all those who fly on, use, operate, and maintain our products,” said Mike Delaney, Boeing’s Chief Aerospace Safety Officer. “Our actions are focused on making further improvements to ensure safety, compliance, and conformance of our products and services, without compromise. Our commitment is to never forget our responsibility to make sure every action and decision bring lasting improvements to the safety and quality of our products and services.”

Last year, the company launched a digital learning platform called Safety Experience at Boeing to help employees incorporate safety lessons into their daily tasks, and also launched “Just Culture Guiding Principles” to foster an environment “where employees feel safe and empowered to report errors,” the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) said.

Following the Alaska Airlines 737-9 incident in January, Boeing said it “redoubled” efforts to encourage employees to report concerns related to product and service safety, quality, and compliance. As a result, the manufacturer saw a more than 500 per cent increase in submissions to its “Speak Up” reporting channel in early 2024, compared to the same period in 2023.

In April, Boeing introduced “substantial improvements” to its Manufacturing and Quality training program after six weeks of assessment — taking into account feedback from employees and the FAA.  

“Now, each new employee receives 10 to 14 weeks of foundational skills training before moving to the production floor, which is one to two weeks more on average per teammate,” Boeing said in a May 23 update. “New hires are then paired with a workplace coach or peer trainer on the factory floor for structured on-the-job training and won’t work on their own until they demonstrate established proficiency measures.”

At its Renton, Wash., training centre, the OEM installed “a section of 737 fuselage for employees to practice various skills including wiring installation and identifying potential defects.”

Boeing says it has also established business unit Safety Management System Boards “to identify, track, and mitigate risks within their areas of operation.” Moreover, the company has collaborated with the FAA to develop machine-learning algorithms capable of identifying emerging hazards and safety trends. Lastly, the OEM has begun collecting data on how its products are performing in the field, with the intention of sharing the data with engineering teams so they can validate the designs.

Boeing noted it has also been working with industry partners on various safety initiatives, including extending its Competency-Based Training & Assessment (CBTA) programs to five additional airlines, bringing the total to nine customers.

The manufacturer has also more than doubled engagements between Boeing Flight Operations Representatives — like pilots and other flight experts — and airline flight crews.

“These representatives . . . assist aircrews of more than 170 global operators on safe and effective operation of their Boeing products,” the OEM said.

Those interested in the full 2024 CASO Report can find it on the Boeing website at www.boeing.com/safety/caso-report.

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