Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pilots admit they 'nod off' – and their hours are set to soar

The Independent Jonathan Brown 23 February 2012

The lives of air passengers could be put at risk by tired pilots falling asleep or making an error as a result of new European rules increasing their working hours, MPs were warned yesterday.

The pilots' union, Balpa, said that even under the present system, which limits the amount of time they can spend in the air after waking, nearly half of its members admitted nodding off in the cockpit.

Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee, the union's head of safety, Dr Rob Hunter, said the real figure was likely to be much higher because of under-reporting by pilots who were often unaware they'd been asleep.

Balpa is opposing the harmonisation of rules between Britain and the rest of Europe which it said could lead to some pilots working for up to 22 hours at a stretch. Current safety laws limit this period to 16 and a half hours.

In a survey of 500 pilots Balpa found that 43 per cent had involuntarily fallen asleep while flying. Of these a third said they had woken to find their co-pilot slumbering as well. Even under the present system the union estimated that pilots could be landing when they had a one in five chance of falling asleep – meaning their reactions would be those of a pilot with a blood-alcohol level four times the current legal limit for flying. Balpa said the new rules would make the situation "much worse".
A crash involving a Colgan Air flight in New York three years ago, in which 50 people died, led to a change in US rules to minimise pilot fatigue.

After a sudden loss of cabin pressure pilots have 15 seconds to put on their oxygen masks before they lose consciousness. Even when flying on autopilot they must make routine checks and monitor radio transmissions.

Current0700 Pilot awakes
0800 Arrives at airport to begin shift – take-off and landing; post-flight checks
2400 Finishes shift; starts rest period including 10 hours of hotel availability
1000 Begin new shift

0700 Pilot awakes
0800 Arrives at airport and begins four hours on standby
1200 Flight begins
0400 Discretionary rest period starts
0600 Shift ends – eight-hour sleep period
1400 Begins new shift

Natural Disasters Influence Mental Mistakes

Psych Central By Rick Nauert PhD on February 13, 2012 

A new study in the journal Human Factors finds that survivors of disasters may experience intellectual challenges in addition to stress and anxiety. This mental decline may cause survivors to make serious errors in their daily lives. It was published by New Zealand researchers after the Christchurch earthquake.

Studies have found that more traffic accidents and accident-related fatalities occur following human-made disasters such as the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Experts believe the mishaps are due to increased cognitive impairment that can lead to higher stress levels and an increase in intrusive thoughts. 

This study was looking at human performance and required two sessions with volunteers.  The earthquake occurred between the sessions so the researchers took the opportunity to compare before and after.
Normally, participant performance would improve during the second session, but the authors found an increase in errors of omission following the earthquake.

If the participants reported being anxious following the quake, their response times sped up and they made more errors of commission, whereas those who reported depression logged slower response times.

“People would find themselves zoning out and making more errors than usual after the quake.”
Investigators believe future research is needed to explore this phenomenon further, but the scientists’’ findings may point to potentially serious complications arising from post-disaster performance in daily life and work tasks.

These findings also suggest that police, emergency responders, and others working in the aftermath of the disaster may also experience cognitive disruption, which can interfere with their ability to perform rescue-related tasks.

“Presumably people are under increased cognitive load after a major disaster,” Helton continued.
“Processing a disaster during tasks is perhaps similar to dual-tasking, like driving and having a cell phone conversation at the same time, and this can have consequences.”

Friday, February 10, 2012

Taking a stand at the office

Montreal Gazette Jill Barker, 9 February 2012

Jimmy Rogers got rid of his office furniture while recuperating from a herniated disc, which made sitting painful. First he put his laptop on top of a filing cabinet and stood up to work. Then he went for "something more ergonomic,”

Now he spends a full day working standing up. Part of a growing trend of office workers who work at a at a standing desk

There is growing amount of evidence suggesting that too much time spent in a chair isn’t good for your health.

The American Cancer Society recently released a report stating that women who spent more than six hours a day sitting had a 37-per-cent higher risk of mortality, compared to those who sat fewer than three hours a day, within the study’s 13-year time period. As for men, six hours a day spent in a chair increased the likelihood of death by 18 per cent over men who spent less than half that time seated.

Researchers believe excessive sitting causes the body to go into a type of “sleep mode,” which shuts down muscle activity and has a negative effect on the body’s metabolic functions.

Standing, on the other hand, encourages movement, which boosts muscle activity, calorie burn and, according to some health experts, alertness. Yet despite its seemingly obvious benefits, there’s little research proving that more time standing will negate the health risks associated with too much sitting.

McGill University kinesiology professor Julie Côté, a specialist in ergonomics and biomechanics, is currently gathering data on the physiological responses of incorporating more standing postures in the workplace.
Her study measures blood flow to the legs and muscle activity in the low back during occupational standing and sitting.

Finding just the right desk and adjusting it to just the right height is the easy part of the switch from sitting to standing. Finding the endurance to stand for extended periods of time is the real challenge.

“Start gradually,” Côté said. “And never stand longer than 90 minutes without changing your position. The worst thing you can do is stay static.”

Most people don’t spend the whole day on their feet, rather they alternate between sitting and standing, which is where the adjustable desk helps.

Rogers suggests getting around the expense of an adjustable desk by using a chair the height of a bar stool. This inexpensive option allows you to install a stationary platform to hold your computer, monitor and phone, while still being able to move easily from sitting to standing.

As for suggestions on how to ease the discomfort associated with long periods spent standing, Rogers recommends placing a cushioned mat under your feet, wearing footwear with good support and alternating elevating one foot on a riser.

Côté says finding out what works best for you is all part of the learning curve associated with moving from sitting to standing. And since there is no clear research suggesting that one strategy works better than another, it’s okay to experiment.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Nudge theory trials 'are working' say officials

BBC Website 8 February 2012

Nudge theory  involves making minor changes in communications such using simpler language in letters, highlighting key messages and stressing "social norms." Trials have been taking place across a number of UK government departments, and it appears that some of these are working by boosting compliance and reducing fraud, error and debt.

Eight trials have shown that "relatively minor changes to processes, forms and language can have a significant positive impact on behaviour". A local authority saved £240,000 on false council tax claims. Letters from Revenue and Customs.that emphasised "social norms" produced a 15% higher response rate than the standard letter. Including images of untaxed vehicles in demands for payment of duties had proved successful.

Examples of the ideas being tried include:

  • Using handwritten fonts to personalise letters
  • Asking people to complete an "honesty code" in letters
  • Sending a "thank you" letter to people who have complied
  • Highlighting key information in bold or "strong" colours
  • Using lotteries or prize draws to encourage people to pay tax returns early
  • Linking tax evasion to the impact on council services
  • Naming and shaming late payers on a website

The report summarising these findings is available at The Cabinet Office"