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The 7 types of rest and crucial elements for fatigue management in ANSPs

Updated: May 4, 2023

Complexity abounds when creating a manual roster for an ANSP. You must consider not only the preferences and qualifications of Air Traffic Controllers, but also fundamental fatigue rules. A rostering automation platform can help to facilitate this process. Still, we are going to stop at fatigue management and the essential elements that need to be observed by the Roster or Planning Manager:

1. What are the effects of fatigue on ATCOs?

Working in shifts increases the risk of exhaustion, which has been linked to unfavorable outcomes including but not limited to:

  • Focus;

  • Time to react;

  • Challenge to make crucial decisions;

  • Slow performance;

  • Judgment;

  • Abilities in movement and reaction;

  • Memory;

  • Mood.

ATCOs are especially susceptible to fatigue due to the nature of their work. They often work long hours in high-stress environments, affecting their physical and mental health. By learning about the effects of fatigue, ATCOs can make sure to take care of themselves and stay safe while on the job. And also, it’s a great responsibility for the manager to consider the effects and the rules to mitigate the fatigue risks while rostering.

2. Essential questions

A planning manager needs to consider these two questions when building an ANSP roster:

  • Is there a plan in place for dealing with fatigue?

  • Are employees' work hours checked and reviewed to ensure they don't work too many hours or shifts to prevent overwork?

Compiling a roster should be straightforward if both questions have affirmative responses. Also, there are important rules and elements to take into account.

3. What are the crucial elements to be included in the roster aligned with official regulations?

According to IFATCA, the following components for the ANSP rostering system must be mandatory:

  • maximum number of days on duty in a row;

  • maximum number of hours per shift;

  • the most time an Air Traffic Controller can work without taking a break;

  • the number of duty periods compared to breaks when controlling air traffic;

  • minimum rest periods;

  • maximum duty periods that run into the night, if necessary, depending on the hours of operation of the air traffic control unit in question;

  • minimum rest time after a shift that goes into the night;

  • the minimum number of breaks in a scheduled cycle.

Resting your body and mind needs more than simply a few hours of inactivity. Getting too much shut-eye might have a similar effect. The need for rest is something that everyone, not only ATCOs, should take into account, and it is crucial to realize that there are several forms of rest to take into account. There are 7 types of rest, according to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith.

4. How can the 7 types of rest help prevent ATCOs’ fatigue?

1) Physical rest is when you take a break from physical activity. It's important because it helps the body relax and enter a state of repair. Sleeping and napping are great ways to relax your body physically, but there are other things you can do. Yoga and stretching increase circulation and flexibility, two key elements of relaxation. By increasing circulation, your body can effectively eliminate toxins and stress hormones.

2) Struggling with concentration or recalling things may be signs of a deficit of mental rest. Taking short breaks while working is crucial. That's why ATCOs must have minimum rest periods considered in the roster. But there are other ways for ATCOs or anyone else to relax their minds, such as listening to a podcast, watching a movie, gardening, writing down your distracting thoughts, or trying a new relaxing hobby.

3) Working as an Air Traffic Controller means constantly connecting with pilots via devices, so technology is always present in your work environment. This can be overstimulating, and intentionally disconnecting from technology is a form of sensory rest.

4) Problem-solvers and people who come up with new ideas need creative rest. So, as an ATCO, you must keep your mind open in case of a problem. If there is a situation, ATCOs must stay focused and consider ways to solve it to keep the skies safe. A good way for creative rest is to engage in a creative hobby such as painting, drawing, writing, or playing a musical instrument that helps ATCOs to relax and unwind. Not only can these activities stimulate creativity, but they also allow them to express themselves in a non-work-related context.

5) If the ATCOs' well-being is taken into account and they don't get tired easily, they will feel much better. If they feel better, they can better get along with their coworkers, which is very important for the ANSP's culture. Being around positive people strongly affects individuals, and this is a type of social rest.

6) Emotional rest means talking to a trusted friend or family member, journaling, or letting yourself feel and express your emotions.

7) Spiritual rest can take many forms, such as a sense of acceptance and belonging, meditation, or volunteering.

In conclusion

Simply put, ATCOs and managers need to know what happens when people are fatigued. Managers need to follow the rules about fatigue when creating the roster. ATCOs and managers should consider the seven types of rest at work and in their free time.

With rostering automation platforms like SkyRoster, it's easy to build a roster that considers elements that help manage fatigue with just a few clicks. Also, Air Traffic Controllers can quickly request time off from the platform when they need to rest, and managers can be notified and agree to those requests.

Send a sample roster to see how SkyRoster can help your ANSP manage fatigue better.

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