Rail Industry Focus

01.11.19

The dangers of fatigues

Source: RTM Oct/Nov 2019

 

Working long hours, poor health, too little sleep, a demanding job and more can all make us tired and affect our mental and physical performance – and when we’re fatigued we make more mistakes.

Fatigue makes us less alert, less aware of our surroundings, and less able to process information. 

Our decision-making and memory suffer, and these effects are dangerous if we’re doing anything where safety is critical, whether driving a train or road vehicle, working on track, or carrying out signalling or maintenance duties.  Yet it’s possible to miss fatigue warning signs – those lapses of attention or even briefly nodding off.

The Clapham Junction collision in 1988 illustrated the tragic consequences of fatigue, when inadequate controls for overtime contributed to a wiring error that killed 35 people.  A survey published by RSSB this year found 16% had experienced a fatigue-related incident at work.  Of these, 55% said they’d had more than one incident.

To control risk, it’s vital to minimise fatigue.  But there’s no silver bullet - what’s needed is a comprehensive range of measures, including:

  • Fatigue-friendly working patterns designed by people trained in how work patterns affect our opportunity to get the sleep we need
  • Assessing work patterns using all of the following:       
  • Minimise fatigue factors (limiting shift lengths, consecutive shifts, etc)
  • Use a bio-mathematical fatigue model, but don’t treat model predictions as gospel- all have their limitations
  • Get feedback from the people working on the ground about their concerns and ideas for improvement. Simple fatigue rating scales and surveys help identify and prioritise areas for improvement.
  • Robust arrangements for controlling and monitoring working hours, including any work-relating driving.
  • Educating staff and managers on the causes and effects of fatigue, how to avoid it, and what to do if they have concerns
  • Simply getting enough sleep, and not working or driving when you’ve been awake too long. Some rough rules of thumb - such as informing workers that having less than six hours sleep in 24 is likely to impair performance - can help people understand whether they’re likely to be able to work the whole of their shift safely.
  • An open reporting culture towards fatigue - easy to say, but needs sustained efforts by all, with a collaborative approach involving managers, staff and representatives including trade unions. Only by collaborating will we get lasting fatigue risk reduction.

Good work has started in three fatigue working groups, one each for passenger and freight operators, and a third for infrastructure companies, but more needs to be done.  Society more widely is slowly becoming aware of the effects of fatigue on safety, health and wellbeing – it’s in everyone’s interests to re-double the rail industry’s own fatigue risk reduction efforts.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

  • 15/11/2019A workforce which reflects society

    Loraine Martins MBE, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Network Rail, joins us in the studio for the third episode of our RTM podcast, talking at...
  • 02/11/2019Monica Barbosa: Women In Rail

    Director of business development and communications at Xrail, Monica Barbosa, thinks women are missing out on exciting opportunities because the...
  • 01/11/2019The dangers of fatigues

    Working long hours, poor health, too little sleep, a demanding job and more can all make us tired and affect our mental and physical performance...
View all News

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

interviews

Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio ... more >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

14/11/2019Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

Rail Technology Magazine’s Matt Roberts explains the significant role data can play within the future development of the rail industry. Standing as a cornerstone of the UK transport network, the rail industry is forever striving to innovate and maximise efficiency in all aspects of its work. Data is just one such way of achievi... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >