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What is fatigue risk management?


In recent years government departments have taken notice of scientific research into fatigue risk. They have sought to move away from prescriptive work limits and into the realms of fatigue risk management systems which encompass requirements to manage a range factors relating to fatigue including rostering, work practices and education. The transport industries in Australia have been amongst the first to make this transition with fatigue management systems now required in the rail, road and aviation sectors. Other industrial sectors, including health which has a history of requiring employees to work up to 24 hours straight have also recently begun to look at the workplace health and safety issue of fatigue management  as a means of reducing workplace accidents and incidents.


Why has fatigue risk management become an issue?

According to researchers, fatigue has long been underestimated as a safety issue. Research by the US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has attributed fatigue as a factor in up to 52% of single vehicle accidents and 18% of all fatal accidents. The Centre for Sleep Research at Adelaide University estimates that being awake for 24 hours leads to an individual's performance being degrading to an equivalent of having a blood alcohol level of 0.1% - double the legal limit for most drivers. A study in Victoria found that approximately 70 deaths and 500 serious injuries occur each year in road accidents as a result of fatigue.

Fatigue has also been strongly linked to accidents in the aviation industry. The Colgan Air DHC-8 accident of February 2009 which killed 50 people has fatigue listed as a contributory factor. In Australia, the May 2009 mid air collision of two helicopters in Western Australia was deemed to have fatigue as a contributory factor.


How is fatigue risk managed?

Fatigue management systems or fatigue risk management systems as they are sometimes called are a set of processes and procedures used by an organisation that aim to:

  • develop rostering systems that do not lead to unacceptable levels of fatigue;
  • put in place an education system so that employees are aware of the signs and symptoms of fatigue and of strategies to manage fatigue in their everyday lives;
  • assign fatigue related responsibilities to both management and employees;
  • capture, record and analyse events that occur as a result of fatigue;
  • review and amend operational procedures as a result of a fatigue event.

Within the aviation industry companies that wish to operate outside of the prescriptive requirements of the Civil Aviation Orders can implement a fatigue risk management system. Within the road transport industries there are two schemes, Basic Fatigue Management and Advanced Fatigue Management which allow extended and more flexible hours of work.


How do I learn more about fatigue management?

If you would like to know more about fatigue risk management the Australian Online College has an aviation industry Fatigue Risk Management course and a road transport industry Basic Fatigue Management course available. Both courses are nationally recognised.


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Joshua Walhain
17.12.11, 15:31
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