Memorandum by the Health and Safety Executive
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
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)
The keyboard height above the work
surface, and the space available to rest hands/wrists, could lead
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.