Power Breakfast: Dealing with air traffic controller fatigue, oil and gas prices, U.S. debt, GM, China

How do you deal with worker fatigue — especially if the workers have other lives in their hands like air traffic controllers?

Despite several recent incidents of controllers suspected of sleeping on duty, they won’t be allowed to schedule naps into their work shifts to mitigate fatigue, AJC reporter Marcus Garner writes. Their union floated that idea.

“We don’t pay people to sleep at work at the FAA,” the agency’s top administrator, Randy Babbitt, told Atlanta controllers Monday, echoing words Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood used earlier in the day. “I don’t know anybody that pays people to sleep at work.”

Babbitt told several dozen controllers at the FAA’s Terminal Radar Approach Control center in Peachtree City that, even if the rules allowed controllers to schedule naps during shifts, professionalism would not, Garner writes.

At the same time, Babbitt introduced new work rules designed to address the problem of fatigue, Garner reports.  One change: Controllers will get what officials called recuperative breaks, in which they will be allowed to step away from their work stations, stretch their legs, grab some coffee or get some fresh air.

Other rule changes include adding an additional mandatory hour of rest time between scheduled shifts, prohibiting schedule swapping that may cut into the required nine hours between shifts, and prohibiting controllers from starting midnight shifts after a day off, Garner writes.

Also in the AJC:

In other media:

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6 comments Add your comment

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April 19th, 2011
7:07 am

Babbitt needs to go. He’s ignored this issue for years now, but now that some high-profile non-incidents have taken place he’s suddenly “taking it seriously”. Give me a break. If only Obama had a backbone and would fire his arse.

Tony G

April 19th, 2011
7:09 am

There are many studies on the effects of shift work and how to schedule employees to minimize fatigue. If air traffic controllers are that sleepy, something is wrong with their schedule. Don’t hire another person at a small airport with only a few flights. They will take turns sleeping while the other is on duty.


April 19th, 2011
8:09 am

Anyone who has ever worked the midnight shift for any length of time is guilty. Sometimes you just can’t stay awake. Sounds like in many cases the towers don’t need to be occupied anyway. Too many people think they can get by without sleep. I once had a coworker brag to me about how little he got. I resisted the desire to remind him he was sleeping 3 hours at work every night while I was doing his job. Luckily he left shortly after that and I didn’t have to take any corrective action. It’s a real problem where 24 hour coverage is required. It’s hard to even find people willing to work those shifts, and for good reason. Since I was willing it enabled me to advance to positions I really wasn’t qualified for.

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April 19th, 2011
11:08 pm

I worked graveyard swing and days every 6 days at United and never fell asleep. I cherished my job and got my rest and didn’t go out and drink 2 hours before my shift. These guys don’t care anout their job or the safety of aircraft. Get people that do. Fire their buts if they don’t care.