Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Health and Safety Executive (NAT 3)

  The Inquiry will not focus on health and safety issues, but in view of the Transport Sub-committee's Inquiry into NATS it might be helpful to let the Sub-committee have a brief note on HSE's recent involvement at Swanwick concerning the question of the display screen equipment installed at the new air traffic control centre, and the resultant publicity and PQs on the subject.

  HSE is responsible for the enforcement of occupational health and safety legislation at airports and ancillary activities such as air traffic control centres.

  HSE inspectors visited Swanwick in January 2002 in response to concerns raised by trade union representatives in relation to risks to the health of staff operating the display screen equipment (DSE) used for the control of aircraft.

  The main areas of concern identified by HSE were:

    —  Some aspects of the design of the display screens are likely to lead to eye-strain (presenting in symptoms such as headaches and blurred vision) and to operators adopting poor posture from which musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) could develop.

    —  The keyboard height above the work surface, and the space available to rest hands/wrists, could lead to MSD.

    —  The operation of, and space available for, the workstation mouse could lead to MSD.

  Following the visit, HSE wrote to NATS outlining the initial findings, with copies to the trade union representatives of air traffic controllers. HSE discussed the issues with NATS and the trade unions at a later visit and, in case some of the findings might have had implications for flight safety, they were also discussed with the CAA.

  HSE produced a detailed report, which contain a number of recommendations for actions to deal with the problems identified. HSE sent the report to the management at NATS on 15 March, requiring NATS to produce an action plan to address any outstanding matters within an appropriate timescale. HSE is in discussion with NATS about technical issues within its report and will consider what, if any, further action is necessary once it has received the NATS response and action plan. Copies of the report were also sent to trade union representatives at NATS.

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