7th July 2022

Operated unfit due to fear of repercussions

Initial Report

Prior to this flight I had slept for only an hour at maximum due to insomnia, the company do not allow us to use sleeping aids so only natural remedies were available. When waking up for my flight I knew I was unfit and struggled to get myself ready as I had very slow cognition, I drove to work but cannot remember driving.

I spoke with my partner about not being fit to work he also felt that I should call unfit, I told him I wouldn’t as I would have to explain why I was unfit and that if investigated they would see my roster was not fatiguing and that I had requested unpaid leave on this day (due to it being an early flight and the trouble to sleep).

I made the crew aware that I was very tired and may need some prompting if I forget something, another crew member stated that she had operated with an ear infection this week due to fear of repercussions and investigation.

After the in-flight services I sat down to eat and very nearly fell asleep, I decided to walk up and down the cabin to keep myself awake, later on in the flight I became upset in the toilet due to being so tired and frustrated.

The recent management changes have hugely impacted the safety culture we used to have at my airline, we do not have it anymore it is purely a profitability culture. There are many cabin crew who openly admit to operating unfit due to fear of discipline and being high risk for redundancy should another round happen.

CAA Comment

Under the UK Retained Regulations ORO.FTL.115 (Crew members responsibilities) if a crew member knows or suspects that he/she is suffering from fatigue or feels otherwise unfit should not perform duties on an aircraft. This crew member should have reported fatigued and completed a fatigue report form.

Organisations and all individuals associated with aviation tasks have a responsibility in maintaining a healthy safety reporting culture. Safety Systems should identify risks posed to that operation and promote awareness of these to all personnel via established reporting protocols. The Reporting System should be fully utilised and emphasise ‘just culture’.

CHIRP Comment

Flying can be tiring; long days, busy flights, early reports, delays, personal issues etc can all cause tiredness and potentially fatigue.

Fatigue can be a result of trying to manage a work and life balance and just because a duty is legal, it does not mean that you might not suffer from the effects of tiredness and potentially fatigue.

Let your operator know if you are having issues sleeping and/or you require any additional support. Please also remember that you have a responsibility to yourself, to ensure that you aren’t putting yourself at risk by driving when you haven’t slept the night before.

Ultimately, crew should not be reporting for duty when they are unfit. The negative consequences of reporting when you are unfit should not be underestimated. There are potential implications not just for you and your health (being stuck down route when you are unwell is not a pleasant experience), but also to your colleagues (whose workload has now potentially increased) and the passengers, if there is delay or cancellation of your flight.

It was proactive of the reporter to request unpaid leave when they knew they’d struggle with rest before an early flight. However, from a reporting perspective it would’ve been better to have followed the operators advance fatigue reporting process, if there is one.

Familiarise yourself with your operator’s process so that you are aware of the options available to you should you find yourself in a similar position. Fatigue must be reported internally as data from safety reports helps an operator identify and mitigate a safety concern that could be occurring.

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