Tuesday, June 9, 2015

From Safety 2015: The New Face of Fatigue Management

© istockphoto.com/Viktor_Gladkov
Mike Harnett’s Safety 2015 session, “Shattering Myths: The New Face of Fatigue Management,” presented research on optimizing safety and performance while reducing the effects of fatigue. Harnett touched on tools, technologies and control mechanisms that can be used as defenses against fatigue-related incidents. These include effective use of lighting technologies, fatigue detection devices, optimizing schedule design and a implementing fatigue risk management system.

Since fatigue affects nearly everyone in multiple ways, Harnett argued that using a systematic approach in which all stakeholders are involved is key to achieving success. Organizations must "acknowledge the complexity of managing fatigue," "prevent excessive duration of wakefulness at work," "provide sleep opportunities between shifts," and provide "guidelines on how to handle fatigue-related behaviors, errors and incidents."

Harnett, vice president of human factors for SIX Safety Systems Inc. discussed how a fatigue risk management system approach accepts that humans make errors, that these errors are seen as consequences (not causes) and are largely due to systemic failures. “Control, therefore, shifts to changing the conditions under which individuals work rather than solely trying to change the individual,” she said. Measuring fatigue against safety and performance often requires a fundamental paradigm shift, where an organization must first see fatigue as a fit for duty concept needing to be managed.

Another point Harnett made was that having a fatigue risk management system in place ensures the success of an effective risk assessment process toward fatigue. She presented an approach to assessing fatigue-related risk that follows a fatigue-related incident trajectory, where five points exist where controls can be introduced to mitigate risk and prevent fatigue-related incidents from occurring. These five points are 1) sleep opportunity; 2) sleep obtained; 3) fatigue-related behavior; 4) fatigue-related error; and 5) fatigue-related incident. Controls include implementing formal tracking of assigned work hours; using employee surveys; providing symptom checklists; instituting an error analysis system; and using an investigation checklist postincident, respectively.

Harnett’s session was recorded during Safety 2015 and is available for purchase on http://learn.asse.org.