And you think you’re tired…. We all know how concentration suffers when we’re feeling tired, and that the hours we work - and their timing - have a strong influence over this. We also know we aren’t the only link in the chain of getting safely from A to B without human error creeping in. We’re talking about the engineers maintaining your silvery birds. Inevitable commercial pressures within the organisations they work for, as well as the vagaries of their own personal circumstances can, and often do, motivate them to work extensive hours. There have been some serious incidents where fatigue has been cited as a contributory factor leading to the initiating maintenance error.
The most recent high-profile event was the BA A319 in May 2013, which suffered a double cowl loss following maintenance by two engineers on a night shift. In the preceding 14 days the certifying engineer had worked four 12-Hour day shifts and eight 12-Hour night shifts (not including breaks) and the non-certifying engineer wasn’t far behind. Thankfully BA have now amended procedures to more appropriately control hours, and of the five safety recommendations made in the AAIB report, the first one related directly to implementation of Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS’) for maintenance organisations. This is not the only instance where maintenance error has occurred on a night shift when circadian rhythms are at a natural low; fatigue has been implied or directly cited as a factor in the maintenance errors that led to the following serious incidents and, sadly, catastrophes: