Circle Opinion

Effectively managing your fatigue management process

Andrew Symonds

Fatigue management protocols are commonplace in labour intensive industries which require prolonged periods of physical or mental exertion. If you’ve got engineers or drivers keeping services moving, their working hours need to be carefully monitored in order to ensure that they don’t become fatigued, thereby impairing their ability to perform to the best of their abilities. Providing appropriate rest breaks during shifts and ensuring that they get enough time to rest in between is paramount. So, how can management teams effectively manage this process and ensure that workers are getting enough rest and adhering to your company’s fatigue management protocols?

The role of management

The role of management is fundamental to ensuring that fatigue management procedures are in place, first and foremost. There are usually industry standard guidelines depending upon your sector, for example the number of hours a train driver can consecutively drive for, or be on a shift for, is closely monitored to best ensure that they are in good condition to drive.

More broadly, where safety critical work is being conducted, there is a requirement that there be a 12-hour break between one shift ending and the next one beginning.

Putting these procedures in place is one thing. Enforcing them, however, is another.

The role of technology

Technology can make the process of establishing and adhering to fatigue management protocols much easier for management teams. If your workforce can sign into and out of shifts via their mobile device, then real-time, archivable records can be kept with notifications established where infringements occur.

This enables management teams to better understand the shifts undertaken by the workforce and to take action where required.

Furthermore, by linking your fatigue management protocols to your workforce management structure, you can understand the circumstances of each worker to better combat fatigue. For example, you could link a team member’s domestic address to their shifts, better understanding their travel commitments to get to and from the location of work.

This may not sound important, but Renown Consultants were fined £450,000 by The Office of Road and Rail, with £300,000 in costs, after two of its workers were killed in a road traffic accident on the way home from a shift. Fatigue management protocols had not been adhered to and the two workers had to travel a significant enough distance home for this to prove fatal.

A holistic view

Understanding your workforce and the shift patterns of your workers is crucial to implementing an effective and robust fatigue management framework. Deploying all the information available to you and considering all the aspects will also help in implementing and maintaining your protocols.

Setting shift patterns and rosters is one thing, but then monitoring how they are conducted is another. Receiving real-time data from out in the field gives you a plethora of information.

Not only will it reveal how many hours are being worked, but it will also offer performance indicators where projects are concerned. For example, a set number of hours will be assigned to complete a given task – if this timeline is not met, understanding why is important.

Your fatigue management protocols can plug in to and interact with the rest of your processes in this way, which can help in revealing strengths and weaknesses in your processes to inform other decisions. You will also be able to identify where work is unlikely to be completed within the allocated time, in advance. All the while, you will be able to enhance the safety of your workforce.

Cutting corners with workforce safety is unacceptable and fatigue management is a central component of that. Understanding your workforce’s shift patterns and linking them to their external circumstances can play a fundamental role in ensuring that you have a robust and manageable fatigue management framework in place.


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Andrew Symonds