The report studied the working hours of police and civilian staff working in sensitive areas such as passport control and hand luggage x-ray.
The airport, used mostly by Irish budget airline Ryanair, operates a two shift system. The first shift starts at 4.15am and the second ends at midnight. Police officers based at the airport work three consecutive early or late shifts. Some officers spoke of only getting two and a half hours’ sleep prior to an early shift.
Police officer Rickard Kerwien told DN:
“Your brain power isn’t exactly brilliant. You’re tired all the time. Sometimes you make really stupid mistakes. We know people slip through with false passports. It’s not a good situation.”
His colleague, Ove Eriksson, has been a police officer for 38 years and always enjoyed shift work. But even he thinks the current regime is inhuman:
“You never get the chance to rest up properly.”
IPM’s sleep expert, Michael Ingre, agrees that the current system is the worst imaginable from a health perspective:
“Just getting up in the middle of the night is extremely tough. The body is at its lowest capacity and it’s very difficult to adapt.”
He says the risk for mistakes and accidents increases dramatically. The effects of sleep deprivation can be compared to those of alcohol.
Police chiefs lay the blame squarely at the door of Ryanair. The head of Sörmland county police, Per Fryksén, told DN:
“We’re in the unhappy position of having to fit in with Ryanair.”
However, they refuse to answer staff calls for a three shift system. Ryanair do not fly at night and so police bosses claim there isn’t sufficient work to do to justify a third shift. Ove Eriksson disagreed:
“There’s always work to do. We could get in our cars and deal with trouble-makers in Nyköping. I think the top brass are behaving like Ryanair’s poodles. If someone takes a bomb on board, the first we know about it will be when it’s too late.”
Airport chief, Dot Gade Kulovuori, said she took the report very seriously and wanted to discuss it with the police. However, she claimed security at Skavsta was good.