Review Policy on Stress Management

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Review Policy on Stress Management

46TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Istanbul, Turkey, 16-20 April 2007

WP No. 158

Review Policy on Stress Management

Presented by PLC

Introduction

1.1 This work item was put on the Professional Legal Committee (PLC) Work Programme in Kaohsiung 2006, following the discussion of Working Paper 89 on the “Review of Policy on Interception of Civil Aircraft.”

1.2 During this discussion new policy, requesting Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) to be made available when suffering critical incident stress reactions following an interception of a civil aircraft was adopted and the request for further investigation on other occurrences that would require CISM was put.

1.3 Unfortunately this amendment to the IFATCA Manual, stating that a new paragraph 2.4.5 “CISM must be available for ATC staff involved in an interception” was not incorporated and will be inserted in the next edition, unless Committee C decides in accordance with presented recommendations.

Discussion

2.1 For readers convenience concerned paragraph 2.4.4 on page 4223 states that:

“Professional critical incident stress support services should be made available to air traffic controllers involved in ATC incidents/accidents if the air traffic controllers so choose.”

 

2.2 There might be some confusion about the meaning of the word “incident” in the above mentioned policy statement, especially that the word is stated twice, both having a different meaning.

2.3 An ATC incident is most commonly defined as “any occurrence, including near-miss situations, which has the potential to cause personal injury, disease or death, or property damage” or “an occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft that affects or could affect the safety of operations”, while more generally it is defined as “a generic term for those events that do not cause harm but which might have done so under different circumstances”.

2.4 IFATCA has been active in promoting the importance of identifying and effectively dealing with stress in the workplace. The dynamic nature of our occupation dictates that we concentrate our efforts on “critical incidents” and critical incident stress management (CISM) programs and support services. We think of critical incidents as having sufficient emotional power to cause an employee to experience strong and sometimes overwhelming reactions which could interfere with or hinder their ability to function either on the job or in every-day life.

2.5 In light of the realization that there can be other events or situations apart from the classically called “incident/accident” that can cause unusually strong emotional reactions that have the potential to interfere with ability to function as an air traffic controller, PLC suggests to broaden paragraph 2.4.4 to read: “Professional critical incident stress support services should be made available to air traffic controllers involved in ATC incidents/accidents and any other occurrences that can create critical stress reactions. It is the controllers’ choice whether or not to take advantage of these support services.”

2.6 By inserting “any other occurrences that can create critical stress reactions” even occurrences that are not job-related but which may have the potential to interfere with the ability to function as an ATCO are covered as well. Once again it is the controllers’ choice whether or not to take advantage of these support services.

2.7 The carried recommendation B/C5 of Kaohsiung 2006 stating: “CISM must be available for ATC staff involved in an interception”, which erroneously hasn’t been incorporated in the IFATCA Manual, is covered by the proposal in 2.5.

2.8 Furthermore PLC is of the opinion that an editorial reshuffling of paragraphs within “2.4 Stress management” is needed to make this subchapter more consistent for readers’ convenience. As editorial changes are not subject to Conference approval following will be done in the 2007 edition of the IFATCA Manual:

  • 2.4.1 – 2.4.1;
  • 2.4.3 – 2.4.2;
  • 2.4.5 – 2.4.3;
  • 2.4.2 – 2.4.4;
  • 2.4.4 – 2.4.5.

2.9 The policy statements having been discussed, PLC examined the “Critical Incident Stress Management, model of a suggested course design”, annexed under 4.2 annex 1. PLC is of the opinion that the model is still relevant.

2.10 In our desire to learn more about CISM we should also look to other respected institutions for guidance and direction as to how best plan our CISM courses and strategies to develop and administer critical incident stress management services for our membership and their families.

2.11 One such example that has come to the attention of IFATCA is The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. (ICISF)…a non-profit, foundation dedicated to the prevention and mitigation of disabling stress through the provision of education, training and support services, including consultation, in the establishment of Crisis and Disaster Response Programs for varied organizations and communities worldwide.

2.12 Another valuable document concerning Stress is the thesis by IFATCA President Marc Baumgartner entitled “Critical Incident Stress Management in ATC”1, published in 2004. This report considers the task of the air traffic controller and reviews theories and models of stress, relating these to air traffic management. Methods of dealing with such stress and/or trauma are reviewed, with a focus on CISM. CISM applications worldwide are reviewed to get an idea of the state of CISM in Air Traffic Management.

Conclusions

3.1 Besides incidents/accidents and interceptions of civil aircraft, other events exist that can create critical stress reactions, even those not job related. Therefore CISM should be provided for those occurrences.

3.2 By broadening the scope of paragraph 2.4.4 on page 4223 to read: “Professional critical incident stress support services should be made available to air traffic controllers involved in ATC incidents/accidents and any other occurrences that can create critical stress reactions. It is the controllers’ choice whether or not to take advantage of these support services”, all possible occurrences are covered.

3.3 IFATCA should continue to seek guidance and recommendations in order to develop our “best plan” in the administration of critical incident stress management services for our membership and their families.

Draft Recommentations

4.1 It is recommended that on page 4223 of the IFATCA Manual, paragraph 2.4.4 on Stress Management be amended to read:

“Professional critical incident stress support services should be made available to air traffic controllers involved in ATC incidents/accidents and any other occurrences that can create critical stress reactions. It is the controllers’ choice whether or not to take advantage of these support services”

4.2 It is recommended that resolution B/C5 (Kaohsiung 2006) be discarded.

4.3 It is recommended that in the Manual section 4, Annex 1 point 7 should contain only a reference to the document “Critical Incident Stress Management in ATC”  by Marc Baumgartner, and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. web-site.

References

IFATCA Manual

Marc Baumgartner (2004), Critical Incident Stress Management in Air Traffic Control, Eurocontrol Experimental Centre

Doug Churchill – “Managing the ‘Other Stress’”, IFATCA Controller magazine, March 2007

The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, web-site www.icisf.org; retrieved 22 February 2007

Last Update: September 29, 2020  

December 21, 2019   817   Jean-Francois Lepage    2007    

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