By Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D.
This morning, I held a media roundtable regarding fatigue. Not surprisingly, questions were raised regarding the recent instances of air traffic controllers found sleeping on the job. I pointed out that the NTSB’s investigations have found that fatigue is an issue across all modes of transportation. Over the past 40 years, the NTSB has issued nearly 200 fatigue-related safety recommendations: 61 address highway safety, 51 rail safety, and 46 aviation safety.
Questions were asked about strategies to address fatigue, including controlled napping. I explained that the NTSB has not made a safety recommendation regarding strategic naps for air traffic controllers, but does emphasize that the transportation industry needs a comprehensive science-based solution to fatigue. Numerous science-based strategies could be considered. Controlled napping is only one.
NTSB recommendations regarding a comprehensive approach include:
- education about fatigue risks, sleep need, and circadian rhythms,
- address health and medical issues related to sleep disorders, and
- 24/7 work schedules consistent with scientific research.
Fatigue and transportation safety is clearly a complicated and often contentious issue. One thing is certain: the time has come to address it.
Mark Rosekind, Ph.D., is a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board. He is a frequent contributor to the NTSB blog.