Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tired Techs Countering Fatigue With Common Sense

Overcoming fatigue in critical jobs ...

"Decades ago, one of my A&P school instructors cautioned the class, "It will be years before you get to drive to and from work in the sunlight, so you'd better learn to sleep during the day." Since working nights and odd hours are facts of life for aviation technicians, he cautioned, "If you are looking for a 9-to-5 type of job, aviation is probably not for you." It was good advice.

Late flights, unscheduled maintenance and unpredictable workloads often lead to long hours, missed meals and angry or disappointed voices over the phone. But there's another consideration, and a dangerous one, lurking behind the time clock: it's fatigue, and all the problems that can ensue therefrom.

Fatigue-related errors are a major contributor to both civil and military aircraft accidents. Flight crew rest rules have long existed to help reduce mistakes, but errors from weariness continue. The difficulty trying to regulate crew rest is that you can't force a pilot or anyone else to actually rest on command like flipping a switch, particularly one who's anxious or has lots of undone chores to be accomplished or is six chapters into a page-turner.

Aviation is hardly alone in being vulnerable to fatigue-related mistakes. Most forms of transportation including trucking, rail and maritime operations are susceptible. Some medical professionals work long and irregular shifts and, coincidentally, many medical mistakes have been traced back to fatigue. Both nuclear power plant accidents at Three-Mile Island in Pennsylvania and at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, as well as the Bhopal chemical plant disaster in India had operator fatigue as a contributor.

Maintenance technicians are just as susceptible to making fatigue-related errors as a counterpart in any other profession, but the problem is particularly insidious when flying machines are involved. Maintenance mistakes can take months to surface and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to properly identify the true root cause. To help defend against the weary wrench syndrome, employ to-the-issue information and effective countermeasures."   (Continued via Aviation Week)   [Ergonomics Resources]

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