Aviation safety issues and actions

Air traffic control shift management practices

Issue number: AO-2014-074-SI-01
Who it affects: All Airservices Australia air traffic controllers operating on night shifts
Issue owner: Airservices Australia
Transport function: Aviation: Airspace management
Background: Investigation Report AO-2014-074
Issue release date: 13 May 2016
Current issue status: Safety action pending
Issue status justification:

The ATSB acknowledges the safety actions being taken by Airservices Australia which, when complete, have the potential to address the safety issue. The ATSB will monitor the outcomes and actions arising from the review.

Safety issue description

The utilisation of  shift sharing practices for the Tops controllers resulted in them sustaining a higher workload over extended periods without a break, during a time of day known to reduce performance capability.

Proactive Action

Action number: AO-2014-074-NSA-009
Action organisation: Airservices Australia
Date: 13 May 2016
Action status: Monitor

On 30 March 2016, Airservices Australia advised the ATSB that:

Airservices is currently reviewing the application of published Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) guidelines for ATC staff undertaking night shift duties. The review considers the application of risk assessment, the appropriateness of work cycles/rest periods, the adequacy of staffing arrangements in relation to the volume and complexity of night time traffic, and any variations that may exist between ATC groups. This review also includes updating the National ATS Administration Manual (NAAM) to include responsibilities regarding the application of FRMS principles for Operational Command Authority (OCA)/Supervision authorities. The updated provisions in the NAAM will be published in April 2016.

ATSB comment:

The ATSB acknowledges the safety actions being taken by Airservices Australia which, when complete, have the potential to address the safety issue. The ATSB will monitor the outcomes and actions arising from the review.

Additional correspondence

Response date: 12 May 2016
Response from: Airservices
Action status: Monitor
Response text:

Airservices advised the ATSB on 30 March 2016 that the application of published Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) guidelines was being reviewed in relation to ATC staff undertaking night shift duties. As a result of this review, the following changes were made to the National ATS Administration Manual (NAAM) to emphasise the responsibilities of operational staff to consider fatigue risk management:

  • where supervision is provided in the delivery of ATS services, the supervisor must manage fatigue risk in accordance with FRMS, and
  • In the absence of a supervisor, the Prime Position (as defined in section 1.7.8.5) is responsible for discharging the following responsibilities while undertaking their primary controlling duties:
    - determine unit- de-concentration and consolidation requirements to meet the traffic demand
    - manage staff rotation within the unit to meet the FRMS requirements and to limit the need for coincident handovers on multiple work stations within the unit.
ATSB comment:

The ATSB looks forward to receiving additional advice on the other components of Airservices' review of the application of published Fatigue Risk Management System
guidelines for air traffic control staff undertaking night shift duties. These additional components of the Airservices review were advised by Airservices on 30 March 2016, and include:

  • the application of a risk assessment
  • the appropriateness of work cycles/rest periods
  • the adequacy of staffing arrangements in relation to the volume and complexity of nighttime
    traffic
  • any variations that may exist between air traffic control groups.
Last update 21 June 2016