Fatigue is one of those sneaky things that will creep up on you and often without you realising it until something happens. It’s been a major problem over the years in maritime industries but especially in the commercial fishing sector.
Crew members on charter vessels, ferries, water taxis and other passenger/vehicle transport vessels that operate in Australia are usually short voyage operations.
In addition, they usually operate between fixed times and often with crew changes scheduled in during their operating timetables. Crews on construction vessels are usually controlled by legislation in relation to their operating times.
This makes fatigue relatively easy to manage compared to some other sectors, but it can still be a major issue. Crew members and shore-based workers who fail to get adequate rest between working hours are in risk of suffering from fatigue.
Fishing operations such as net fishing or prawn trawling in bay and/or estuary waters are often either day or night operations allowing sufficient rest periods between voyages.
Others such as long liners, line fishing vessels and offshore trawlers operate offshore and may undertake round the clock operations. This is where fatigue management is critical to ensure the safety of all persons onboard.
In shore-based workplaces workers are subject to fatigue as well based on the hours they work, number of shifts and many other factors that often don’t get taken into account.
Things to consider
Your operations will determine how you manage fatigue. Here are a few pointers on what to consider…
- Do you operate on scheduled times, around the clock or somewhere in-between
- Crew/worker rosters (where applicable)
- When developing rosters time taken for each crew member or worker to travel to and from work
- Time in-between shifts (hours for rest)
- How many days in a row (e.g., 3 days on 2 days off)
- What berthing/bedding facilities are onboard (for extended voyages) or in the workplace (for on-site workers; e.g., FIFO)
- For vessels operating extended hours how rest periods are managed
- Who manages fatigue levels onboard or in the workplace
This is a starting point of things to consider before jumping into developing your fatigue management programme!
What to identify when assessing fatigue
To properly assess fatigue, you need to take into account two key elements which are:
- Standard working hours which includes
- Total hours worked per day
- Days worked per week
- Total hours worked per week
- Hours between shifts
- Night shifts
- Breaks per shift
- Additional hours which takes into account:
- Extended hours
- Times you get called back to work
- Secondary employment
The combination of the above will identify a crew member or workers risk of fatigue and then allow a process to be put in place, where required to minimise the risk.
Calculating fatigue exposure
The risk of fatigue is calculated by undertaking a risk assessment that is designed to identify all the areas that contribute to fatigue.
In general terms risk of fatigue is broken down as follows:
Low Risk is deemed that a person works less than 50 hours per week
Medium Risk is where a person works between 50 – 70 hours per week
High Risk is where a person works more than 70 hours per week
Developing a fatigue management procedure
This procedure can be quite tricky to ensure it’s on target and I always recommend doing a risk assessment on fatigue for your operations before you start.
When developing a fatigue management procedure here’s the key points to take into account…
- Identify who monitors fatigue onboard or in the workplace
- Identify who manages breaks onboard or in the workplace
- For vessels that have crew changes during operations specify start and finish times; or
- Workplaces that have worker rotation specify start and finish times
- For vessels or workers operating extended hours when rest periods are to be taken; and
- a roster for breaks (times when individual crew members are off duty)
The above points provide the basis for developing your fatigue management procedure but remember it is a tricky one to get right.
Remember that fatigue often goes unnoticed until something happens and that could be anything from a minor injury to loss of life or damage to or loss of a vessel or workplace.
So…please take fatigue seriously because it can be and is a killer!
We strongly recommend that you take fatigue seriously and undertake a detailed risk assessment in relation to fatigue.
You can do a group risk assessment where you take into account all crew members or workers who are operating on the same work hours.
Where there are differences in specific crew members or workers hours you need to do a risk assessment on that person or persons.
When undertaking risk assessments for fatigue our tip is to ensure you cover all aspects of the group or individual crew member or workers hours including total hours worked per week, breaks and the one that most people don’t take into account travel time to and from work.
To get an honest appraisal of a person’s fatigue potential you need to be honest about all their hours both work and rest periods.
If in doubt or you need assistance with fatigue risk assessments don’t hesitate to contact our office because we’re here to help!