Fatigue Management

John FRANKLIN • 26 October 2020
in community Air Operations

With many personnel working fewer hours, fatigue is not necessarily an issue that springs to mind in the context of the COVID-19 shutdown and gradual return to normal operations. Having identified fatigue as one of the emerging safety issue as a consequence of the pandemic, this article and the attached guidelines provide information on some of the hazards that cause fatigue in the COVID and some thoughts on how you can manage these in your organisation. 

Why fatigue is an important safety consideration?

The safety issue analysis identified three principle reasons why you should be thinking about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fatigue of your staff:

•             The reduction in working staff has the potential to leave remaining staff working longer, more intense hours;

•             Measures and changes to tasks relating to COVID-19 may cause a more fatiguing working day;

•             COVID-19 influences many aspects of personal life, which may affect general physical and mental fitness.

What should you do to manage fatigue? 

If you are an authority, organisation or individual the main things that you can do to manage fatigue during the pandemic are:

  • Competent Authorities  - you should apply your existing fatigue management oversight, using the list of hazards outlined in the attached guidelines as examples of how organisations may need to adjust their approach in the current circumstances;
  • Organisations – you need to use your existing fatigue-management approaches, taking into account the additional hazards listed later in the guidelines. Given the disruption created by the pandemic, you should give attention to returning to the established fundamentals of fatigue risk management and fatigue risk mitigation;
  • Individuals – you can also use the list of hazards to think about how you manage your fatigue risk. We have a number of upcoming articles in our “Day in the Life” series where people in different aviation roles share their challenges and give their tips to help manage fatigue at a practical level. 

The benefits of effective fatigue management

When fatigue is effectively understood and managed you can reduce the likelihood of human error. This in turn help to improve both aviation safety and personnel safety. There are some aspects of the pandemic that you might not have considered with regards to fatigue.

Your organisation should consider that staff reductions cannot be made in direct proportion to the reduction of traffic levels without risking a rise in levels of fatigue. In particular, where staff are unable or discouraged from using public transport, especially where staff are working nights, you might consider providing sleep opportunities prior to departing the workplace or to providing transport home.

Consider the effects of skills and knowledge degradation during the shutdown and the need for refresher training on fatigue awareness. Your reporting system should provide a useful source of information to help you identifying the effect of the pandemic on the fatigue of your people. Encourage reporting of fatigue issues and proactively invest what your staff tell you so that you can better understand the consequences of fatigue to your operations and how you can help improve the situation. 

Information on some of the hazards that cause fatigue in the pandemic

The attached guidelines provide lots of useful information on the hazards that cause fatigue and some great tips that you can use. They cover the following areas:

  1. Underestimation of fatigue, its consequences and costs
  2. Organisation’s resource planning insufficiently considers fatigue
  3. Extended time at work
  4. Increased work during night hours
  5. Higher intensity, more varied or challenge
  6. Underload and overload
  7. Pressure to work regardless of physiological or physical state
  8. Effect of decreased wellbeing on sleep quality and quantity
  9. Additional PPE may fatigue people more quickly
  10. Restrictions during layover
  11. Changes to commuting arrangements

Make sure to download the guidelines below!


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