Fatigue working group agrees on air traffic controller recommendations

Washington – The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association recently came to an agreement on recommendations intended to help prevent workplace fatigue among air traffic controllers.

The memorandum of understanding (.pdf file), released July 1, is the culmination of a joint FAA-NATCA fatigue working group. Among the recommendations:

  • Controllers must report to work well rested.
  • As traffic permits, controllers may listen to the radio and read between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Controllers are prohibited from sleeping while working, per existing FAA policy.
  • It is the employee’s responsibility to alert his or her supervisor when fatigued, and he or she may request leave when too fatigued to work.

Additionally, FAA will develop a fatigue risk management system by January 2012 to evaluate levels of fatigue risk. The agency also agreed to develop policies to encourage controllers to seek medical help for sleep apnea. Currently, controllers lose their medical qualification when diagnosed with sleep apnea.

FAA and the Washington-based traffic controller union also agreed to incorporate fatigue science into new watch schedule principles by Sept. 1, 2012. The two are working with local facilities on schedules that reduce fatigue when transitioning from the day to midnight shift.

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