NBAA Focus: Fitness for Duty About More Than Physical Considerations

NBAA Focus: Fitness for Duty About More Than Physical Considerations

Fitness for duty is an important consideration for all individuals serving in a safety-sensitive role in business aviation. This includes ensuring that employees are mentally and emotionally able to perform their roles responsibly, as well as in good physical health.

Stress due to family matters, finances or other factors may significantly affect a person’s job performance despite their best efforts to work through those issues, noted NBAA Safety Committee Chair David Ryan.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to identify when someone may not be on their game during a particular day,” he said. “That’s not only because of business or safety concerns, of course – we should also care about the well-being of those we work with.”

Maintaining that commitment is especially important for larger operations, he added, where it may be more challenging for managers to regularly interact with individual team members.

“A person owes it to the rest of their team to engage with someone they see who may be having problems and, all else being equal, bring that situation to the attention of their supervisor or operations director,” Ryan said. “It might mitigate a potentially dangerous situation.” 

The NBAA Safety Committee has identified fitness for duty, across all aspects, as one of its Foundations for Safety. The committee also recently developed a Fitness for Duty Policy template for business aviation organizations to adopt as part of their own best practices for operational safety.

“We have committed [our company] to employee fitness for duty, by providing adequate rest opportunities between duty periods, the opportunity for team members to report fitness issues via a positive and confidential process, and encouragement for employees to seek treatment for substance abuse or any physical and mental health issues that they might face,” the template states.

Ryan noted that many business aviation organizations have adopted “just culture” models in which managers, supervisors and an individual’s coworkers may address such concerns without fear of punitive action being taken against those who find themselves unable to perform their duties.

“We must all be our brothers’ or sisters’ keeper,” he concluded. “We operate in an environment where our mistakes may not happen on the ground at zero airspeed, so it’s vital that a business aviation employee feel secure in stating, ‘I need to tap out today,’ and not fear recrimination for making the responsible decision.” 

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