Fatigue: how to assess the invisible threat
Basic fatigue management is essential for combatting human error incidents in the workplace, a work health and safety conference has heard.
Within mining operations, for example, fatigue is a leading contributor in 60-70 percent of human error incidents, according to Caterpillar Safety Services’ Asia Pacific regional manager Brett Haskins.
Speaking at Queensland Resources Council’s Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference last month (August 2015), Mr. Haskins said fatigue undermines productivity and performance targets, impacts financial results and damages business reputations.
The impact isn’t all negative. It also provides an opportunity to better understand operator performance, positively impact risk mitigation, make efficiency gains, drive cost control and improve the overall health and wellness of our employees.
“One thing that I have learned over the years through multiple change management and continuous improvement systems is to first assess (define and measure) the current state of any operation, before developing an improvement plan that helps reach the desired state,” Mr. Haskins said.
Opportunities among the threats
Mr. Haskins said the ability to accurately assess fatigue represented a clear opportunity. Using custom-designed Six Sigma practices, Caterpillar Inc. built a comprehensive safety product suite that included a fatigue and distraction risk assessment – a holistic employee fatigue and distraction measurement tool that provides real-time visibility to an ongoing risk.
Over the past decade many technologies have emerged in the fatigue space ranging from in-cab camera systems and devices needing to be worn by an operator, to computer software scheduling systems, he said.
When used as stand-alone technologies, these tools can provide valuable improvement data. Together, the technologies can capture the entire picture.
“During the assessment period it’s important to consider the use of a range of technologies in order to clearly define the volume of the problem. For example, an in-cab camera system detecting operator alertness will provide the number of fatigue and distraction events occurring, but it doesn’t provide any data on that same operator’s sleep quality. Similarly, telematics data provides ample information about how the equipment is operating, but provides very little information about the control module (the operator).”
Caterpillar, Inc. uses a combination of products to provide a holistic view of operator and fleet performance. The product suite includes:
• Cat Smartband (a scientifically validated wrist worn technology that captures the quantity and quality of sleep for the wearer, which is then used to calculate an effectiveness score).
• Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (a fatigue modelling software that identifies areas of fatigue risk in schedule and roster design utilising individual and group sleep data to generate minute-by-minute performance predictions).
• Driver Safety System (an in-cab camera system that detects fatigue and distraction events).
• Equipment Telematics (“black box” type technology used to transmit vital equipment and operation data to improve usage and product life . A fatigue and distraction risk assessment analyses the combined data from each of these technologies to bring visibility to the current state of operations, employee effectiveness and risk. It monitors events through the use of an instantaneous in-cab alarm and seat vibration system. The accompanying 24/7 monitoring system also supports a fatigue intervention plan for each detected event and customised reports to be used for analysis and continuous improvement. The technology provides an accurate measuring system for determining the success of your overall fatigue risk management system. In addition, the availability of real-time data enables the changing out of any operators who are at risk of accidents and injuries due to their fatigued state.
Since its development the Driver Safety System has monitored more than 8 million hours and driven more than 101million kilometres in mining vehicles; 2641kms driven while operators were fatigued. The system has detected more than 1.5M distraction events in these same mining vehicles.
“During the assessment process we strongly encourage cross checking and referencing equipment telematics, tyre and incident data from your machines. Integrating these data sets with fatigue and distraction events provides even more tangible information to define the current reality,” Mr. Haskins said.
Once a fatigue and distraction risk assessment is undertaken, employers have specific and verifiable data from which to build an improvement plan.
Combining real-time intervention technologies, operator performance-related data and engaging in operator consultation creates an integrated and comprehensive improvement plan for the business, he said.
In working with employees to optimise policies, procedures, training and schedules rosters, an ongoing fatigue risk management system will facilitate a culture of continuous improvement driven by data analytics for a sustainable future.
Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Michael Roche, meantime, told the conference there was “no room for complacency” when it comes to safety, regardless of operating circumstances.
“When it comes to improving the industry’s safety culture and leadership, better management of vehicle and mobile equipment safety and addressing fitness for work challenges (such as impacts from drugs and alcohol), a collaborative rather than competitive approach is what is needed,’ Mr Roche said.
AlertForce is a leader in fatigue management training. AlertForce has customised courses in transport, mining, manufacturing and rail that can help your business (see https://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/fatigue-management/#course-content).
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