Fatigue management is of critical importance for any rail contractor or client.
A fatigued workforce is less productive, more costly and could put themselves or others at risk.
What Are The Risks?
Risk Of Incidents
Fatigue greatly increases the risk of accidents and incidents on site, leaving the company liable. According to a report by the RAIB, fatigue was a contributory or causal factor in at least 74 railway accident and incident reports between 2001 and 2009 (RAIB, East Somerset Junction Report 2009).
Fatigued people are likely to make mistakes. Just some of the effects of fatigue are poor judgement, slow reactions, poor memory and impaired vision. In fact, research suggests that being awake for more than 24 hours results in impairment worse than that of being over the legal limit for blood-alcohol concentration.
One of the most harrowing and well-known examples of fatigue-induced accidents is the Clapham Junction collision of 1988 when 35 people lost their lives due to a wiring error. The technician responsible was working his 13th consecutive seven-day workweek, resulting in heavy criticism of the health and safety culture within the industry at the time.
Risk To Individuals
Companies similarly have a responsibility towards their own workforce. Fatigue reduces morale, productivity and increases absenteeism. In the long-term, it has also been linked to significant health problems such as increased cardiovascular issues and poor mental health.
What Are The Regulations?
The rail industry used to manage fatigue by working to the Hidden Limits, which defined permissible work and rest periods for staff. Now, it suggests a more tailored approach for individual companies based on evidence and risk: known as implementing a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS).
However, several regulatory bodies do still offer suggestions of permissible work schedules and these all cite a similar limit. For example, the ORR:
- Day shifts should last no longer than 12 hours.
- Night and early shifts should last no longer than 10 hours.
- Door-to-door times should be taken into account as the risk of injury is increased whilst driving or commuting.
- Labour should work no more than 7 consecutive day shifts in a row before having a rest of 48 hours. The same applies to 3 consecutive night shifts and 5 consecutive early shifts.
Additionally, new Network Rail regulations mandatory from October 2022, require all employees and managers measure and consider fatigue at all times on site.
Implementing An FRMS
An FRMS consists of a set of policies and processes defining how a company intends to prevent and manage fatigue.
Your FRMS Should Include:
- Responsibilities of senior management regarding fatigue management.
- Identification of fatigue risks.
- Implementation of controls to mitigate risks.
- Development of a training programme for staff.
- A process for the regular review and feedback on the FRMS.
The idea of an FRMS is that it should be based on real evidence, data and risks specific to your company. Surveying staff and analysing accident and incident data are crucial components of creating such a system.
Building A Positive Safety Culture
Given the evidence-based nature of fatigue management today, fostering an open and safety-focused culture is of paramount importance. Your field teams are your main source of information pertaining to fatigue risk and on-site safety.
Establish trust among your workforce by including them in your FRMS process, encouraging their feedback and rewarding the timely reporting of safety issues. Implement a reporting system for incidents that is easy to use and gives useful, accessible feedback.
A "Just" Culture
Your workforce is more likely to report issues if they know they will be treated fairly. Partway between ‘blame’ and a negligent ‘no blame’ culture is a just culture. Be impartial when investigating incidents and value your staffs’ input.
Be flexible in your fatigue-management process and in general. Understand the importance of your workforce being of competent health and make them feel able to come to you with any concerns. Continuously review and adjust your FRMS process.
Collecting Data For Your FRMS
Raildiary’s site reporting software facilitates the easy collection and analysis of resource and safety data. Our resource reports allow you to drill down into hours worked and shift times, either filtered by the person or at a project level.
Report on HSQE KPIs by exporting your resource report and integrating to project management software such as Power BI. Visualise your data in a series of insightful reports to isolate key metrics and inform your FRMS.
The platform also contains a close call section where your on-site staff can record safety issues, incidents and near misses. It’s accessible in real-time by all those who need it.
In conclusion, fatigue management is essential to ensure the safety of workers in the rail industry. By identifying the causes of fatigue and implementing measures to manage it, employers can reduce the risk of accidents and improve the wellbeing of their workers. With the right policies and practices in place, the rail industry can continue to provide a safe and reliable service to customers while protecting the health and safety of its workforce.