It is certainly a grim picture to paint, yet fatigue has been identified as one of the most dangerous factors affecting workers, particularly in the pipeline industry.
The consequences of fatigue can be serious for worker safety when poorly mitigated and managed; indeed some of the most catastrophic disasters in recent decades have been attributed to fatigue.
Worker fatigue is not just a risk to an individual’s safety; it also poses serious dangers to others present in the working environment, as well as the wider community.
While fatigue has always been considered as a detrimental factor, particularly in industry circles, it is now becoming better understood.
As a result an increased focus has been placed on understanding and managing the impacts of fatigue on a workers’ cognitive and physical performance.
APIA has highlighted the risks that fatigue poses to the pipeline industry in its Fatigue Risk Management Guidelines: A Guide to Proactively Managing Fatigue in the Australian Pipeline Industry (Guidelines).
APIA, through the Guidelines, is encouraging members to focus on implementing Fatigue Risk Management System’s (FRMS) across the industry.
“We now know from the Fatigue Management Study (conducted by TMS Consulting) that focusing on a single factor like the roster cycle or the length of a shift only addresses part of the risk,” said APIA Chief Executive Cheryl Cartwright.
“The factors affecting fatigue are many and they can interact. Health, exercise and the quality and quantity of sleep are just as important as the number of hours worked and the type of work undertaken”.
According to TMS Consulting, authors of the APIA fatigue guidelines, good fatigue management practices encompass a FRMS that incorporates a systematic approach to risk management, adequate training and education for workers, and well-developed and implemented policies and procedures to support proactive fatigue management strategies.
The guidelines provide further advice that a FRMS should contain the following at a minimum:
- Fatigue risk management policy – The policy document is essentially the written version of the FRMS and aids the organisation in coordinating all of its efforts to improving safety.
- Hours of work monitoring – When planning work schedules and rosters, consideration may be given to the implementation of fatigue monitoring software or roster risk assessment tools to assess the fatigue-related risks associated with planned and actual hours of work.
- Fatigue risk management processes – Like any other hazard, fatigue must be risk managed using a step-by-step process known as the risk management process.
- Fatigue management training and education for employees, management and families – Appropriate training and education should be provided to workers and their families to assist them identify the signs and symptoms of fatigue, and provide them with information and techniques to manage fatigue effectively.
- Fatigue reporting system for employees – The work culture of an organisation should encourage appropriate handling of fatigue-related incidents and accidents, avoiding under-reporting or poor reporting of workplace injuries and illness. Fatigue must not be a taboo topic.
- Sleep disorder management – A critical link between sleeping disorders and fatigue is that disrupted sleep (induced by sleeping disorders) results in greater daytime sleepiness and falling asleep through the day. Profiling the prevalence of sleeping disorders and putting in place systems to assist workers identify, monitor and manage sleep disorders is another important step in understanding and managing fatigue risk.
- Fatigue incident investigation – Investigating whether fatigue contributed to an incident provides the opportunity to identify the absence of appropriate and effective hazard control measures in the FRMS.
- Internal and external auditing and safety assurance processes – The FRMS should be monitored for continuous improvement and to ensure it is flexible to change with changing work practices or functions.
“It is also important that organisations hard-wire the FRMS into their day-to-day processes. That has a lot to do with not only training and education, but also leadership and company culture. The ultimate goal is for fatigue management to become the way we do things around here,” explained TMS Consulting Organisational Psychologist, Teegan Modderman.
A FRMS Implementation Checklist has been included in the guidelines and provides organisations with the steps required to establish support and governance for the FRMS, develop and implement the FRMS and enable and embed cultural change.
Mark Twycross, Director of APIA and Chair of the APIA Health, Safety and Environment Committee commented that the finalisation of the Guidelines was the culmination of a number of years of studying work on pipeline projects and, through a recent survey of members of APIA, the Committee had received positive feedback on the implementation of the Guidelines by members.
APIA members and pipeline industry companies are encouraged to read the full APIA Fatigue Risk Management Guidelines document, which can be accessed at www.apia.net.au/apia-fatigue-management-guidelines-and-toolkit.