ATCO fatigue is defined as follows:

A physiological state of reduced mental or physical performance capability resulting from sleep loss or extended wakefulness, circadian phase, or workload (mental and/or physical activity), affecting the subjective state that can impair an air traffic controller’s alertness and ability to perform safety related duties.

See: WP 159 – Bali 2013

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.

See: WP L004 – Rio de Janeiro 1988

IFATCA Policy is:

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 must be given to individual differences, age and gender.

In exercising the responsibilities of designing of duty rosters (POLSTATs elsewhere refers), 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.

A strategic nap is defined as a short period of sleep taken at specific times during a night shift. Recommended duration of a strategic nap varies from maximum 20 minutes for a nap early in the night to maximum 50 minutes late in the night (after 4am).

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.

See: WP 148 – Toulouse 1998 and WP 159 – Taipei 1997

IFATCA Policy is:

The Regulator / Legislator should:

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

See: WP 162 – Dubrovnik 2009

IFATCA Provisional Policy is:

The FRMS elements model


Tool Control mechanism
Prerequisite 1 Regulation to establish a FRMS
Prerequisite 2 Adequate staffing levels
Prerequisite 3 Awareness of the effects of sleep obtained and promotion of a healthy lifestyle
Prerequisite 4 Environmental and ergonomical provisions regarding working conditions
1 Application of breaks during work time
2 Maximum length of shifts regulation / overtime limitation
3 Appliance of roster model / scheduling
4 Training of the understanding of Prior Sleep and Wake Model (PSWM)
5 Awareness of fatigue and Team Resource Management (TRM)
6 Outcome based fatigue risk management (Fatigue Risk Incident/Fatigue Risk Errors (FRI/FRE) and fatigue risk trajectory model)

See: WP 159 – Bali 2013


Last Update: September 29, 2020  

November 5, 2019   204   Jean-Francois Lepage    MED    

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