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New research from Massey University’s Sleep/Wake Research Centre suggests more can be done to minimize the risk of fatigue-related errors in aircraft maintenance staff, including better education for employees.
The study, recently published in Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, aimed to identify factors associated with an increased likelihood of an aircraft maintenance engineer reporting a fatigue-related error.
Lead author associate professor Leigh Signal says shiftworkers, particularly those who work overnight, are working through the least functional part of the circadian cycle, and sleeping at less than optimal times.
“Alarmingly, the majority of respondents – almost 70 percent – reported they had never had any education on personal strategies for coping with the effects of shift work,” Signal said.
Implementing education would be beneficial, particularly around the personal risks associated with a reduced amount of sleep, she said. “Managing fatigue risk in any work context is a responsibility shared by the employer and employee, as fatigue is affected not only by the timing, duration and arrangement of work, but also by an individual’s choices and activities outside of work.
“Not surprisingly, unexpected roster changes are related to an increased likelihood of making an error, as such changes can impinge upon planned activities outside of work, including sleep opportunities.