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We often think of air traffic jobs as a glamorous. Rarely do we stop to consider how much these men and women endure daily while keeping a smile on their faces. The fact is, shockingly, flight attendants might work in as fatigued state as we often hear about medical interns working under. Like a medical intern, these men and women must be able to make life or death decisions, getting people to safety should the need arise in emergency situations that would cause most people to panic.

The studies indicate that even when the law mandates a nine hour rest between each fourteen hour shift those nine hours often start before the employee has left the airport. Candace K. Kolander in her report “Fatigue: The Flight Attendant Perspective” states that the average nine hour mandated layover amounts to an average of less then four hours of actual sleep time for a flight attendant. With such statistics, it is no wonder that fatigue is a chronic issue with air traffic jobs. It is the flight attendant that often has to perform heroically during crisis in flight or landing. When these men and women are exhausted the safety of everyone on the flight is at risk. There have been reports of attendants falling asleep or nearly so in their jump seats, the very seats that must be active and alert in case of an emergency. Fatigue causes individuals to make errors in judgment leading to safety steps not being performed and in the case of flight attendants and public safety the quest for profits by airlines is making potentially deadly choices.

With heightened security awareness also being placed on the heads of flight attendants, who must act as eyes and ears for security while the plane is in the air, the stress levels only increase long term fatigue. It is knowing how one reacts to this fatigue that is the most vital of steps in reducing it. Being aware that forgetfulness, slow reaction times, decreased vigilance, mental problems like faulty decision making, inability to communicate, fixation on unimportant things, lethargy and mood swings can all indicate heightened fatigue can assist in knowing when one needs to rest more. While lean economic times force airlines to cut back, the cost of fatigue on air traffic jobs is far greater then mere money.

The simple fact is that air travel is a vital component of modern society. Air traffic jobs form an interconnected web of public safety that makes this possible. When profit overtakes common sense and the workers in those jobs are subjected to unreasonable conditions that lead to chronic fatigue, the entire industry suffers. Flight crews across the board must make decisions that impact the lives of hundreds of passengers every day. Doing so while impaired due to drug use would be unthinkable yet they are subjected to sleep deprivation nearly every day that leads to the same level of impairment.

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