Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201700044
Date reported 05 May 2017
Concern title Concern regarding fatigue for maintenance staff
Concern summary

Concern regarding fatigue for maintenance staff at [location] aircraft maintenance.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: Maintenance
Concern subject type Aviation: Policies & Procedures

Reporter's concern

The reporter expressed a safety concern relating to the use of group text messaging to all [operator] maintenance engineers at [location] aircraft maintenance section when overtime is required.

The reporter advised that [operator] planning are using a group text message when they are advising the maintenance engineers that overtime is required. There are no allowances for engineers who are working on a night shift roster. This means that engineers could be in the middle of a run of night shifts and could be woken during the morning by a text, which is irrelevant to them. This then has repercussions for the rest of the night shift, as the engineer will then be fatigued.

Working on a night shift has known fatigue issues and engineers are very aware and plan their lives around getting enough sleep during the day to allay these issues. Many engineers cannot turn their phones to silent (do not disturb) as they are the emergency contacts for their families.

There was a procedure introduced where text messages were not to be sent out before 1300 hours as this would allow engineers to prepare with unbroken sleep. This is not adhered to by the planning staff, with many engineers being woken as early as 0650.

Reporter comment: This is a significant Human Factors Fatigue issue. We work extended hours (12 hour shifts) and being woken up between two night shifts makes a dangerous situation worse. 

Operator's response (Operator 1)

The [Operator] Engineering CASR Part 145 Approved Maintenance Organisation comprises of approximately 2,800 employees. A production planning department creates man-hour plans for all line, base and component maintenance based on the projected planned work. The plan is continually under review and amended as changes to projected maintenance events are known.

This ensures that at the time of the maintenance there are sufficient employees to perform, supervise, inspect and certify the required work. The consideration of human performance limitations are an integral part of this production planning.

When allocating maintenance tasks, maintenance supervisors take into account the limitations of human performance; in particular, the likelihood that maintenance personnel may be affected by fatigue. At all times the supervisor will schedule safety-critical tasks during periods when those carrying out the tasks are least affected by fatigue i.e. at the beginning of work periods.

Further to these standing arrangements [Operator] Engineering has taken the following steps to proactively manage the prudential safety aspects raised in this report including:

  • amending the procedure used when sending text messages to staff as part of the call in process for overtime, to only send text messages after 1300hrs or making such requests when staff are already on shift (as appropriate)
  • acknowledging that some staff indicated they are required to keep their phones on and be contactable while sleeping between shifts, and providing staff with information on managing incoming messages on their phones using call management functions so that any messages from [Operator] would not cause disturbance
  • conducting a review of the revised procedures for the preceding 3 months, and ensuring that staff involved in planning overtime are fully aware of the overtime call in protocols.

We are confident that these arrangements when used in combination are providing appropriate management of the safety matters raised in this report.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

CASA has reviewed the REPCON and is satisfied with the operator’s response.

ATSB comment

In response to the report above, the following comments were received from the reporter:

We are still getting group text before 1300. For this month, January, we've had 11 group texts.

Last update 03 May 2019