What is FOD?

One of the most serious FOD incidents in recent history is known as the “Miracle on the Hudson” in which Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger expertly landed US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River after the aircraft struck a flock of Canadian geese. FOD is an acronym most commonly used in the aviation and aerospace industries to describe items or substances alien to the aircraft, vehicle, or system, with the potential to cause damage. – in this case it was the geese.
FOD Awareness Sign

Although FOD is a concern primarily in the aviation and aerospace industries because of how high the stakes are if unknown objects are introduced in the fabrication or production stages, FOD comes at a high cost for manufacturers.

What does FOD Stand for?

Depending on the context, FOD has two associated definitions:

Foreign Object Debris is any item, substance, agent, or particle not intended to be where it is.
Foreign Object Damage is the result of FOD (Foreign Object Debris) entering the area.

However, FOD is also a costly quality and safety concern for manufacturers often resulting in the loss of production, unplanned rework, and high maintenance expenses. In manufacturing, FOD is likely to come from one of three sources:

  • Tools: Tools from other processes or misplaced tools can cost a company time, efficiency, and safety. It’s important to keep tools where they belong.
  • Personal Items: No matter how small the jewelry operators are wearing, pens, buttons, paper clips, etc. are, they can compromise an entire system or product.
  • Work Debris: Drill shavings, metal filings, unused product parts, or any other unused material left in the workspace often results in FOD.

FOD Prevention Program

Manufacturers wanting to reduce the costly impact of FOD should consider investing in an FOD prevention program. Having an FOD control program in place prevents the introduction of foreign objects in the production line, thus improving quality and safety.

The first step in setting up your prevention program is determining which parts of the processes or areas of the facility where FOD could raise issues (where products are manufactured, tested, inspected, shipped, etc.) There are three FOD Prevention Areas:

  • FOD Critical: Controlled entry and exit, smoking, food, and drink is prohibited. Workers should not be wearing any jewelry and phones should be kept out of the area.
  • FOD Control: Limited area access with “FOD Control” signs posted at the entrance. Personal items should be secured, and tool organization strictly enforced.
  • FOD Awareness: Good housekeep is practiced, but FOD awareness areas are the least stringent of all the levels. Tool accountability is still practiced, FO barriers are still put in place, and personal items are allowed.

FOD Control Practices

Foreign object damage can be prevented by implementing a number of strategies and work practices. 

  1. Housekeeping In the aerospace industry, a popular FOD control practice is called “Clean As You Go.” Keeping clutter out of spaces greatly reduces the likelihood of damage cause by foreign objects. One way to adopt this kind of policy is with an organization strategy like 5S. 5S is a system focusing on workers putting everything where it belongs and sustaining a clean workplace. It’s cost-effective to implement and will remove all unnecessary items from the space.
    FOD SafetyTac Tape
  2. Clearly designate FOD areas: Delineate the space with floor marking tape so employees understand what procedures must be followed when they enter the area. Creative Safety Supply offers inline printed tape, so you won’t have to worry about your message becoming less clear or less noticeable over time. If you choose a solid floor tape, be sure to create a color-coding system your employees understand.
  3. Tool Organization: Keeping your tools organized is critical to preventing FOD incidents. Organize your tools in a logical manner with customizable tool foam or a pegboard and shadow vinyl tape. Both can be tailored to fit your needs to ensure tools are always returned to their right location. Use asset tagging or barcodes to create a system that allows you to track parts, tools, equipment, etc. in the area.
  4. Signs, Labels, and Banners: Install safety signs at the entrance to an FOD area and post safety signs or banners enforcing FOD procedures such as no smoking, no food, boot covers must be worn, etc.

FOD can be costly to manage but making preventative measures could save you from future potential disaster.

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