FATIGUE | The Dirty Dozen: Common human error factors in aircraft maintenance mishaps

  • Published
  • By Safety Directorate
  • Headquarters Air Education and Training Command

Fatigue is a natural physiological reaction to prolonged physical and/or mental stress. We can become fatigued following long periods of work and following periods of hard work. When fatigue becomes a chronic condition, it may require medical attention; but workers should never self-medicate! As we become more fatigued, our ability to concentrate, remember and make decisions reduces. Therefore, we are more easily distracted, and we lose situational awareness. Fatigue will also affect a person’s mood, often making them more withdrawn and sometimes more irrational and angrier.

It is a human problem that we tend to underestimate our level of fatigue and overestimate our ability to cope with it. Therefore, it is important that workers are aware of the signs and symptoms of fatigue – in themselves and others. Fatigue self-management involves a three-sided program of regular sleep, healthy diet (including reduced use of alcohol and other drugs), and exercise. Work of a critical and complex nature should not be programmed during the low point on the body’s circadian rhythm (usually 3 to 5 a.m.). Additionally, when fatigued, always get someone else to check your work.

Moreover, it is estimated that 80 percent of the body’s calories are burned by the brain as it processes the complex problems we encounter on a daily basis. Some maintenance tasks are physically challenging, but just long hours of problem-solving and intense mental engagement can create fatigue as well.

Finally, if you feel tired, the mission may demand you continue, but it doesn’t mean you don’t communicate it to your team and your supervisor. If your decision-making is suffering, or your fatigue is otherwise making your situation hazardous for you or your teammates, your supervisor needs to know. Unfortunately, manpower and resources are always challenging, so fatigue alone may not result in dismissal from your duties, but it may result in additional help to ensure you don’t hurt yourself or others while you complete a shift. Furthermore, it will enable your supervisor to begin working a plan to adjust your schedule if warranted. If they don’t know, it may not be apparent to them the risks they are asking you to assume by operating in a sleep-deprived state.

Fatigue is just one of the aircraft maintenance Dirty Dozen. For the full list, click here: https://www.torch.aetc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/3456436/the-dirty-dozen-common-human-error-factors-in-aircraft-maintenance-mishaps/


NOTE: Below is a link to the Airman Safety App (ASAP), which provides Airmen the opportunity to report safety-related risks and close calls using the Airman Safety Action Report. Anyone, anywhere, with almost any device can quickly and easily report safety-related problems involving personnel, equipment or property. Remain anonymous if you wish. Reporting is the first step to obtaining a solution for improvement. Reporting is simple and only takes between 3 and 10 minutes. Click on the link below to start your report. It’s fast and easy!