COMMENTARY | If you're one of the 3 percent of Americans who work night shift, you could likely empathize with air traffic controllers who have fallen asleep on the job. Safety of those in the air should be the top priority of both the Federal Aviation Administration and the air controllers' representatives.
Night shift air traffic controllers work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the slowest hours of the day for air traffic. For the people who work night shift at any job, the hours of work may be more difficult to deal with than the work itself. Jobs that require constant activity, either mental or physical, promote alertness among night shift workers. Jobs that lend themselves to long or regular periods of inactivity are the most likely to lull employees to sleep, reports the Sun Journal.
On July 1, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association reached an agreement in dealing with the problem of fatigue among air traffic controllers. Naps will continue to be forbidden during controller breaks and mealtimes, according to CBS News. NPR, however, citing the wording in the new agreement, "Personnel performing watch supervision duties shall not condone or permit individuals to sleep during any period duties are assigned," reports that controllers may nap during breaks and mealtimes, just not while sitting at their screens.
NPR reports that when it checked with the FAA about the proper interpretation of the nap rules simply referred NPR back to the wording of the agreement.
Time will tell which interpretation is correct. Sleep scientists, CBS News reports, recommend naps as the most effective way to refresh tired workers. It would seem that a federal agency would latch onto the latest research, often paid for by the federal government, to ensure the greatest safety not only for air traffic controllers, but also flight crews and passengers.
The July 1 agreement also allows controllers to reports themselves unable to work if they are fatigued--something that seems it ought to have been in place all along.
Smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer generation, L.L. Woodard is a proud resident of "The Red Man" state. With what he hopes is an everyman's view of life's concerns both in his state and throughout the nation, Woodard presents facts and opinions based on common-sense solutions.
- air traffic controllers