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Fatigue in Air Traffic Controllers Research Paper


Introduction

Fatigue prevents workers from doing their job effectively and might cause serious mistakes and overlooks. In such fields as air traffic control, such errors might prove lethal and disastrous (Kirwan, Rodgers, & Schafer, 2016). Therefore, it is paramount to be aware of risk factors and causes of fatigue among air traffic controllers, and use methods which would allow for mitigating these factors and causes. Both the risk factors and the possible techniques for their mitigation are discussed in this paper.

Risk Factors for Fatigue in Air Traffic Control

On the whole, there are many very general factors that cause fatigue. These include overworking and ineffective distribution of work, poor diet, stress; burnout; anxiety; age; disease, and many others (Australian Government, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, 2013). In addition, there are numerous risk factors for fatigue, which more specifically pertaining to the duties of air traffic controllers (Kirwan et al., 2016).

For instance, these include the volume of the air traffic and the degree of complexity of its regulation; ineffective rotation and poor shift distribution; additional workload related to the need of on-the-job training (this is especially important for new air traffic controllers); and so on (Federal Aviation Administration, 2009). Depending on a particular combination of the factors present in a given case and their intensity, they may pose a considerable threat to many people, increasing the risk of air traffic incidents, and, therefore, should be identified and dealt with to negate the threat (Federal Aviation Administration, 2009).

Potential and Existing Methods for Mitigating the Risk Factors for Fatigue in Air Traffic Control

Depending on which fatigue risk management initiatives are used and in what circumstances, these may be effectual or ineffectual. For example, an initiative that would introduce breaks for air traffic controllers during which they would have an opportunity to take a short nap (15-20 minutes) may be effective in managing the risk of tiredness (Caldwell & Caldwell, 2016).

Another possible initiative that was proposed by Federal Aviation Administration (2009) offers to create more effective air traffic controller task rotation techniques, which involves changing their tasks from challenging to easier ones during different shifts, also seems to have great potential to prevent fatigue from monotonous job and burnout.

Importantly, as has been previously noted, on-job training itself might serve as a risk factor for fatigue (Federal Aviation Administration, 2009). Nevertheless, employees might be trained to use various techniques, which may help them prevent fatigue (Caldwell & Caldwell, 2016).

In addition, it should also be effective in promoting air traffic controller awareness of the various causes of fatigue. These workers need to know about such risk factors and causes of fatigue as “sleep debt,” poor diet, disease, excess weight, physical inactivity, etc. (Australian Government, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, 2013), because these are factors most of which cannot be controlled by the administration of the airport, but could be managed by the air traffic controllers themselves.

Employing fatigue prevention and mitigation strategies, such as continuously monitoring the workload of air traffic controllers; eliminating or at least reducing to a minimal level the need to work extra hours; rotating the duties of air traffic controllers; providing the opportunity to rest and take a nap during the shift; giving the workers a sufficient amount of time to rest between their shifts and supplying them with vacations of an adequate length; employing some physical techniques (such as exercise) to lower the level their tiredness; dealing with stress by using conflict resolution techniques, etc., might prove instrumental in dealing with the problem of fatigue of these workers (Caldwell & Caldwell, 2016; Trapsilawati, Qu, Wickens, & Chen, 2015).

Conclusion

On the whole, it should be stressed that there exist numerous causes and risk factors for fatigue, both general and industry-specific. To reduce the risk of fatigue of air traffic controllers, airport administrations should rationally distribute their workload and working time, as well as to make these workers aware of the reasons for fatigue, permitting them to address the causes which are not directly related to their work duties.

References

Australian Government, Civil Aviation Safety Authority (2013). Fatigue – the rules are changing. Web.

Caldwell, J. A., & Caldwell, J. L. (2016). Fatigue in aviation: A guide to staying awake at the stick (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Federal Aviation Administration. (2009). . Web.

Kirwan, B., Rodgers, M., & Schafer. (Eds.). (2016). Human factors impacts in air traffic management. New York, NY: Routledge.

Trapsilawati, F., Qu, X., Wickens, C. D., & Chen, C. H. (2015). Human factors assessment of conflict resolution aid reliability and time pressure in future air traffic control. Ergonomics, 58(6), 897-908.

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IvyPanda. "Fatigue in Air Traffic Controllers." November 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fatigue-in-air-traffic-controllers/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Fatigue in Air Traffic Controllers." November 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fatigue-in-air-traffic-controllers/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Fatigue in Air Traffic Controllers'. 17 November.

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