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Foreign Material Exclusion (FME) & Foreign Object Damage (FOD)

Instructor: Robert Supple

Robert holds a BS in Geology and Nursing and has worked and developed curriculum in the H S & E field in industrial and medical settings for over 25 years.

This lesson will define and discuss foreign object damage (FOD) and how it relates to foreign material exclusion (FME) programs. The lesson also covers basic principles of FME programs and their role in minimizing hazards.

Understanding the Threat

Foreign objects can be a threat in a wide range of settings including the nuclear generation, electrical generation and aerospace industries. There are estimates suggesting that foreign object debris costs the civilian aviation sector between $4 billion and $13 billion annually in damaged equipment, flight delays, reduced efficiency, litigation and other costs. This lesson will review the risks associated with foreign objects and methods to control those risks.

Foreign Objects

Foreign objects in an industrial setting have the potential for causing damage and system interruptions. A foreign object is any item that doesn't need to be in a particular area or space and is not limited to any specific category. If it doesn't belong, it's foreign. Some examples of foreign objects include but are not limited to:

  • Machine parts that wear and shear off
  • Tools falling from heights or into machinery
  • Garbage
  • Building materials (nails, screws and fasteners)
  • Small items such as paper clips, coins and pens
  • Rocks, sand and loose vegetation
  • Personal protective equipment (safety glasses, hardhats and gloves)
  • Birds, wildlife

Foreign Object Damage

Foreign object damage (FOD) is damage caused by introducing a foreign object debris into a system or process. The damage can compromise the function of a piece of equipment. An example would be a small tool being sucked into the intake of a turbine engine, damaging the impellers. This would cause a catastrophic malfunction. Damage to manufacturing equipment may cause a quality issue. Tools falling from heights have the potential to damage machinery or harm people. Foreign object damage has the potential to injure employees and damage equipment, and is not limited to any particular set of circumstances.

Foreign Material Exclusion

Foreign material exclusion (FME) is a process to prevent the introduction of foreign objects into a sensitive area that may result in damage to assets, harm to people, harm to the environment, loss of quality or economic loss. FME programs will vary from industry to industry and craft to craft. Developing an FME program will require a detailed assessment of the work environment and associated hazards.

Some of the fundamentals that should be addressed in an FME program would include:

  • Defining the FME zone or area where exclusion is a concern
  • Assessing hazardous materials and chemicals used in the FME zone and tier effects on people and equipment
  • The impact of the cleanliness of tools and equipment used in the FME zone
  • Workplace culture and its effect on employee attitude and buy-in to the FME program
  • Inspection of equipment used in the FME program
  • Prevention methods
  • Making sure items are easily visible and retrievable
  • A program to track items in and out of the FME zone

Implementation of FME Programs

Once an assessment has been completed and the foreign object damage risks have been determined, you will need to implement processes to ensure an effective FME program. These processes will vary and be dependent on the work environment and work scope. Some common processes would include:

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