IFATCA Policy is:

MAs should draw the attention of their members to the causes of Fatigue in ATC so that they can identify those to which they are most exposed.

MAs should advise their members to seek professional psychological advice when they believe that they are subject to excessive stress-inducing agents.

Management has the prime role for providing fatigue management and prevention of fatigue-related catastrophes. Any situation where increased fatigue, decreased sleep, or performance loss can be demonstrated, is a situation where the margin for error is reduced, albeit by some unknown amount, and should be avoided in ATC.

The provision of a satisfactory working environment appropriate rostering, rest periods, facilities, use of overtime, relief controllers and education in human factors shall be agreed with the air traffic controllers involved. Attention shall be given to individual differences, age and gender.

In exercising the responsibilities of designing of duty rosters (see WC 10.3.1 – Duty Rosters), management shall be responsible for providing physical arrangements (relief controllers and adapted rest area) and sufficient break periods for controllers to try to maintain their daily eating habits regardless of which shift they are working. Such physical arrangements and sufficient break periods shall be provided to allow for strategic naps during night shifts.

Management shall approve the implementation of strategic naps as an effective way of improving alertness and anchoring the circadian rhythms of controllers during night shift.

Management shall in close coordination with the air traffic controllers involved, carefully consider staffing levels during night shifts. For those controllers who have very heavy traffic loads during the night shifts, additional relief should be considered as an appropriate countermeasure to sleepiness and fatigue in order to increase the safety margins, and to reduce subsequent daytime sleepiness.

Use of overtime shall generally be kept to a minimum, and a system for allocation of overtime which takes the limitations in human performance as a factor shall be established. The combination of overtime shortly before or just after night shifts shall be avoided.

Control rooms shall be tobacco smoke free areas due to the negative effects on dexterity caused by smoking.

MAs should advise their members and management about the causes of fatigue and countermeasures available.

MAs should encourage their management to include theory about the physiological principles related to sleep and circadian rhythms, both in controllers retraining and basic education. Such training should include knowledge of ways to take deliberate actions (countermeasures) to better meet controllers’ operational requirements.

The regulator/legislator should:

  • develop comprehensive hours of duty regulations for air traffic controllers, incorporating fatigue management principles;
  • require all air navigation service providers to maintain auditable fatigue management systems and establish this as a key element of a target level of safety.

ANSPs should be mindful of the effects of change fatigue, including increased levels of exhaustion and stress, when implementing multiple changes within a short time frame. Where appropriate, ‘stable periods’ should be used to mitigate these effects.


See: WP L004 – Rio de Janeiro 1988, WP 159 – Taipei 1997, WP 148 – Toulouse 1998, WP 162 – Dubrovnik 2009, Resolution C32 – WP 78 – Virtual 2022, Resolution C5 – WP 158 – Montego Bay 2023


Last Update: October 2, 2023  

November 5, 2019   666   Jean-Francois Lepage    MED    

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