Legal Liability Aspects of Inadequate Staffing

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Legal Liability Aspects of Inadequate Staffing

40TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Geneva, Switzerland, 19-23 March 2001

WP No. 169

Legal Liability Aspects of Inadequate Staffing

Introduction

Legal liability of the Controller can be found in the IFATCA Manual pages 4411 to 4414.

At the 39th Annual Conference held in Marrakech Morocco, Legal Liability of working with Inadequate Staffing was placed on the Work Programme of SC7.

In some member associations inadequate staffing is the order of the day. This paper seeks to address this concern.

Discussion

To determine if there is adequate staffing for any ATS unit, the appropriate authority must first determine the amount of staff required to competently manage the unit.

This subject was part of the 32nd Annual Conference Christchurch and is found in the IFATCA Professional Manual Working Paper No. 117/1993 entitled Review of ILO Conclusion.

From this paper two sections are of relevance to this topic:

Section 2.8.1 reads:

“ Adequate manpower and career planning activities are vital to the efficiency and safety of air traffic control systems. These programs should take into account all relevant factors such as seasonal fluctuations, air traffic forecasts in the short and medium term, the capacity of ATC systems, the ATCO’s workload and capacity to handle traffic, the number of control positions needed, the level of competence and qualifications of staff and staffing formulas.”

Section 2.8.2 reads:

“ The Staffing formulas should take into account all the relevant factors such as operating hours of the different working positions; numbers and length of shift; hours of work; holidays, annual leave. Time off maternity leave, trade union activity leave and other days off; number of days lost on sick leave; time needed for holding positions other that actual control; time needed for specialized and refresher training courses; ATCO attrition through retirements, medical incapacity and registrations. Although these factors can forecast with relatively greater accuracy than the ones outlined in the preceding paragraph, their valued may change sometimes abruptly, when new conditions of work are negotiated.”

Although the above statements were deemed as valid and lasting statements, SC7 believes that a more defined policy statement is required. Hence it is proposed that the following policy statement be adopted.

Each member association should take necessary steps to agree with the relevant authority the appropriate staff level required to ensure the safety and efficiency of air traffic control systems.

If the control manager is placed in a situation where there is inadequate staff to efficiently operate the ATS unit he should analyse the existing traffic, check the estimates of traffic entering the airspace and project the anticipated traffic from the Flight Plans received to determine the traffic density of the period for which he is required to work. From the staffing available determine the possibility of getting relieve if and when necessary.

After seriously and critically analysing the traffic situation the control manager should consider instituting planned procedures for flow control. A controller should never compromise safety for expedition.

Although management may choose to institute flow control the added anxiety and stress brought about by staff shortage could never be relieved by flow control alone. SC7 is of the opinion that it is the appropriate authority responsibility to supply adequate staff to competently operate and manage any ATS unit under their management.

Therefore our policy statement is:

“ In event of an incident or accident that can be shown to have been caused wholly or in part due to inadequate staffing the controller concern shall not be held liable.”

 

Conclusion

Inadequate staffing is not a matter to be taken lightly by any means. Each member state should make every effort to have their management address this situation as soon as possible. As mentioned before the appropriate authority should be held responsible for any incident or accident that may occur due to inadequate staffing.

Recommendations

The following policy statement should be incorporated in the IFATCA Manual, page 4413:

1.2 Liability

1.2.1  Each member association should take necessary steps to agree with the relevant authority the appropriate staff level required to ensure the safety and efficiency of Air Traffic Control Systems.

1.2.2  In the event of an incident or accident that can be shown to have been caused wholly or in part due to inadequate staffing the controller concern shall not be held liable.

References

IFATCA 32nd Annual Conference – Working papers No. 117/1993 – Review of ILO Conclusions.

Last Update: September 28, 2020  

March 12, 2020   220   Jean-Francois Lepage    2001    

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