36TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Taipei, Taiwan, 17-21 March 1997
WP No. 160
Critical Incident Stress Management – Update of IFATCA Policy on Stress
Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) was placed on the SC4 work programme following acceptance of a late working paper on the topic at the Tunis ‘96. The work item charged SC4 to update IFATCA’s policy on stress and to investigate the extent to which IFATCA should be involved in the standardisation of a CISM programme for Air Traffic Control.
The main point of the Tunis paper regarding IFATCA’s policy on stress is that this policy was adopted in 1986 and given the new knowledge gained since, IFATCA’s policy should be updated accordingly. The amended policy on stress addresses the following:
- A recognition that occupational stress is a global phenomenon not restricted to any particular profession;
- An expansion of the list of stressors that are particular to Air Traffic Control, recognising that only by this identification will these stressors be addressed;
- A recognition that Critical Incident Stress is a separate and distinct phenomenon from occupational stress.
The section on counselling (para. 2.4 on page 4 2 2 1) has been retitled Stress Management and recognises that stress can be reduced through management; it identifies the different means through which specific types of stress should be handled.
The updated policy on Stress Management recognises that Critical Incident Stress can be specifically dealt with by Critical Incident Stress Management.
A Critical Incident is defined as any situation faced by Air Traffic Controllers that causes them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions which have the potential to interfere with their ability to function either at their positions or later. Critical Incidents Stress (CIS) is the reaction a person or a group has to a Critical Incident. – Adapted from Jeffrey Mitchell Ph.D.
Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is a wide range of programmes and intervention strategies which have been designed to mitigate the impact of stress in personnel and to assist them in managing and recovering from significant stress. – Adapted from Jeffrey Mitchell PhD.
The new knowledge and experience gained by MAs about stress in general and with the concepts of Critical Incident stress and Critical Incident Stress Management indicate the need to update the Federation’s policy on stress.
Amend IFATCA’s policy on stress as follows:
Amend paragraph 2.3.1. on page 4 2 2 1 to read:
Occupational stress is now recognised and increasingly global phenomenon, affecting all categories of workers, all work places and all countries. Several studies have revealed with scientific integrity that considerable levels of occupational stress reactions have been identified among different groups of Air Traffic Controllers.
Amend para. 2.3.3 on page 4 2 2 1 to read:
Nevertheless, some of the most common stressors have been identified as:
a) Demand –
number of aircraft under control, peak traffic hours, extraneous traffic unforeseeable events, proficiency checks/examinations;
b) Operating procedures –
time pressure, having to bend the rules, feeling of loss of control, fear of consequences of errors;
c) Working time –
shift and night work, unbroken duty periods;
d) Working tools –
Imitations and reliability of equipment, VDT, R/T and telephone quality, Equipment layout;
e) Work environment –
lighting/optical reflection, noise/distractors, microclimate, bad posture, rest and canteen facilities;
f) Work organisation –
role ambiguity, relations with supervisors and colleagues, lack of trained staff or staff inadequately trained, lack of control over work process, lack of management support, salary, public opinion;
g) Critical Incident/Accident –
A Critical incident is any situation faced by Air Traffic Controllers that causes them to experience unusually strong emotional reaction which have the potential to interfere with their ability to function either at their positions or later. Critical Incident Stress (CIS) is the reaction a person or a group has to a Critical Incident. (Adapted from Jeffrey Mitchell Ph.D.)
4.1.3. Amend para. 2.4. on page 4 2 2 2 to read:
2.4.1. Stress prevention at the work place had proved particularly effective in combatting stress, by attacking its roots and causes, rather than merely treating its effects. The Federation recognises the importance of Stress Management for Air Traffic Controllers and recommends that, at regular intervals, Air Traffic Controllers be provided with up-to-date information on stress management techniques.
2.4.2. Comprehensive confidential support services should be provided at all times for all Air Traffic Controllers and support staff and their families.
2.4.3. The Federation urges MAs to bring to their Administrators attention the stress inducing potential of their work environment in order that particular consideration is given to ensure that the work environment is suitable and as stress free as possible.
2.4.4. ProfessionalCriticalIncidentStresssupportservicesshouldbemadeavailableto Air Traffic Controllers involved in Air Traffic Control incident/accident if the Air Traffic Controllers so choose.
2.4.5. The Federation endorses the use of professionally trained peers in the provision of Critical Incident Stress (CIS).
(Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is a wide range of programmes and intervention strategies which have been designed to mitigate the impact of stress in personnel and to assist them in managing and recovering from significant stress. (Adapted from Jeffrey Mitchell PhD.)
CISM presentation at IFATCA ‘93 Professional Panel.
WP 96. C.003L – Critical Incidents Stress Management.
ILO working paper CONDI/T/WP. 6/1995 – Occupational Stress and Stress Prevention in Air Traffic Control.
EATCHIP – Human Factors Module Stress HUM.ET1.ST 13.2000 – REP – 01.
Jeffrey Mitchell Ph.D. – ICISF.
Last Update: September 28, 2020