Eliminating Rare Errors: Sleeping Air Traffic Controllers Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Several years ago it was reported that an air traffic controller deliberately made his bed and slept in it while on duty at a Tennessee airport. I am sure many people think that was an isolated incident, but unfortunately it is more common than any of us would like to believe. As automation becomes more prevalent, more and more jobs become monitoring jobs. Unfortunately, these jobs are often so bereft of reinforcement, they fail to keep people’s attention at best, and put people to sleep, at worst. Organizations often try to deal with this fact by disciplining the employees, but that will not solve the problem. If you design jobs that require employees to constantly monitor systems that rarely fail, you are designing jobs that will put people to sleep. To then punish people for falling asleep is unjust.

For a better understanding of what should be done to eliminate situations that lead to unsafe conditions, I invite you to view a new video interview where I discuss the topic of Eliminating the Rare Error.



Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.