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The Fatigue Insider Blog

Fatigue and mining: Digging into the issue

Feb 12, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

Across heavy industry, including mining, fatigue has been shown to be the greatest single cause of workplace accidents. As such, addressing fatigue in miners is an issue of safety as well as an issue of productivity and employee wellbeing. An employee that is fatigued is one whose decision making, fine-motor skills, and emotional stability are severely limited. This can have far-reaching consequences for the individual, for their co-workers, and even for the wider environment.

The mining industry often uses shift-work schedules in order to maintain a productive mine 24/7. We know that shift-workers are at a high risk of being fatigued, whether that be in the long or short term. Just one night of interrupted sleep can cause a decline in cognitive ability, alertness, and slower reaction times. In fact, we know that up to 65% of truck driving accidents in open pit mines are fatigue-related.

In the long-term, fatigue can contribute to chronic health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Underground miners working in an environment without natural light are at an even higher risk of being fatigued, especially if they work nightshifts, as their circadian rhythms and sleeping patterns can be disrupted by the lack of blue light their eyes are able to absorb.

Many of the risks associated with fatigue can be minimised if mine operators take a proactive and preventive approach. Implementing a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) to control worker schedules and help limit shift work and excessive overtime can address many of the fatigue-related issues faced by miners.

If would like to read more on this topic, check out this article in Mining and Engineering titled ‘Mineworker fatigue: A review of what we know and future decisions’: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5983045/


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Working & Sleeping at High Altitudes

Dec 06, 2017 ISS Comments (0)

We’re currently in Bogota working with a client, where the elevation is 2640 metres above sea level, slightly above 8300 feet. High altitude is considered as altitudes above 8000 feet, where the air pressure is lower, and the percentage of oxygen in the air is significantly reduced. This makes working and sleeping invariably difficult, especially if you have not given your body a chance to acclimatise and are suffering from altitude sickness.

Common symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, nausea and loss of appetite. Symptoms such as shortness of breath and irregular breathing are also common, creating sleep disturbances and increasing levels of fatigue.

To acclimatise adequately to our current elevation, researchers suggests that approximately two weeks is required. Now we thought we were doing it tough until we discovered ALMA – an observatory in Chile that sits at an elevation of 5050 metres above sea level, which is roughly 16,500 feet. Working at this altitude exposes people to rapid and intermittent low oxygen levels that can cause problems such as acute mountain sickness, excess production of red blood cells, brain swelling, acute pulmonary oedema and sleep disorders.

Our tips to get well adjusted so you can work (or play!) and sleep at high altitudes include:

  • Arriving at least a few days earlier to acclimatise
  • Keep your meals light to assist with your slower digestive system
  • No strenuous exercises
  • Keep hydrated and steer clear of alcohol

For more information on fatigue at high altitudes, contact us via Facebook, LinkedIn or comment below.

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Fatigue at Managerial & Executive levels

Feb 21, 2017 ISS Comments (0)

Fatigue is frequently experienced by workers within many industries, at all levels. For managers and executives, arduous days, after-hours phone calls, overflowing email inboxes, and unremitting commercial pressures mean that work hours are excessively long and stressful. This can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices including poor diet and lack of sleep in order to fulfil expectations.

Unfortunately, fatigue is seldom an issue that is discussed or taken into account at these levels of businesses. It is because excessive work is sometimes revered (despite plenty of hard evidence that it makes you less effective)? Or perhaps it is because errors made in the office don't lead to physical injuries, broken equipment or environmental spills? Another possibility is simply that managers and executives are happy to talk about topics related to high and improving performance, but not anything that might indicate they are humans and get impaired at times.  

One resource that we have found of value is a film titled ‘Grounded’, which was produced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States. Although the film is now getting a bit dated, it still clearly illustrates how managers in the Aviation industry are just as prone to fatigue as pilots.

 


If you or your organisation is interested in reducing the risk of fatigue in office staff, including those at managerial and executive levels, please contact us or leave a comment below.

 


 

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Fatigued coal miner awarded $1.25 million in damages

Jan 11, 2017 ISS Comments (0)

 

Last month in Australia, a central Queensland coal miner was awarded $1.25 million in personal damages after sustaining injuries from an accident whilst driving home fatigued.

The Supreme Court found the mining company and its contractors had not done enough to reduce the risk of fatigue in the workplace. It had become common practice for miners to drive long periods of time after consecutive 12-hour night shifts, sometimes six or more hours.

To read the Australian government media news article, click here or click Read More for the link.


 

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Free Fatigue Induction video for your workforce

Oct 23, 2015 ISS Comments (0)

Fatigue is an ever present danger on many work sites.

It can be a silent killer, as its symptoms are not always known to workers or their supervisors. Sadly, workforces that are not familiar with the effects of fatigue can be at significant risk. Indeed, fatigue may only be identified once an incident occurs and an investigation reports fatigue as a contributing factor. 

Integrated Safety Support is pleased to offer this free Fatigue Induction Video to help you educate your workforce. This video is an 8-minute fatigue management program with no assessment questions. The course is designed to raise awareness of fatigue as a risk and the personal responsibility to manage those risks. It is suited to all operational employees and a valuable resource to use during employment induction.

We encourage you to watch this video and share it with your team.

If Integrated Safety Support can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us in regards to other fatigue risk management services that may be of help to your workforce. 

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How can automation reduce safety and productivity?

Sep 28, 2015 ISS Comments (0)

For many industries, including Mining and Oil & Gas, there are a lot of headwinds at the moment. This situation has a range of our clients talking about automation as a 'solution' to reduce costs while increasing safety and company performance. 

While technology enhancements can deliver the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, our experience is that they rarely do without careful (but not difficult) considerations. When things don't go to plan you can almost hear people screaming "But, how could the spreadsheet plan be so wrong!?".

From our experience, there are a three key questions that are best asked before considering technology changes involving people:

  • Would the technology be expected to reduce workload (i.e. increase monotony & boredom) and/or increase workload (e.g. by adding complexity)? If so, then there is an early red flag for the possibility of increased fatigue impairment, which may demand different risk controls that the ones already in place. 
  • Is there a reason that the risks within the system will increase for a period, before the benefits are obtained? This could simply be due to the change process itself, or the fact that parallel systems have to be maintained for a time. If so, then don't expect a linear accrual of benefits but plan for the likely reality until the system data suggests stability exists.
  • Could the workforce see the technology as a threat to their job security? If so, don't under-estimate the very human ability to make achievement of success very difficult or impossible. If their jobs are safe but their role now has higher order purposes for quality and assurance then communicate that. If the technology will provide them feedback to help them enhance their own personal safety and team productivity then explain how that is possible. 
The good news is that change can be managed well, and often with a lot less investment and drama than people fear. In practice, a little bit of forethought, planning and communication can go a very long way. If you have your own successes or lessons about any of this please share them. Regards, Adam
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How to help keep employees safe after work

Feb 23, 2015 ISS Comments (0)

One thing I really love about my work is that not only do I get to contribute to workplace safety and productivity, there are also flow-on effects that positively impact the wider community.

Think of a transport business with trucks on the road - and how many other vehicles share that space. There are kids being picked up from school. Football teams are heading to the next town to play their arch rivals. Families are returning from holidays at the beach.

It’s not just the truck drivers on company time that need to contribute to road safety. Once a truck driver has parked up back at the depot, they need to be in a state so they can also safely drive their car or ride their motorbike home.

If we know that these drivers are being looked after on the clock and they are in good condition for the commute home, it’s easy to see the flow-on effects. It means that ambulance crews don’t have to deal with so many road accidents, emergency wards don’t have the added pressure of more patients and rehabilitation facilities can deal with other patients instead.

To take it one step further, if there is an accident, it’s easy to see what sort of costs this would have on the business emotionally, physically and financially.

When we remind ourselves that every working is a human being that lives as part of a community, instead of simply a resource unit to be used to its maximum output, many of us appreciate with crystal clear awareness what is ultimately productive, ethical and profitable. In the future such thinking will be common place, but right now very few of us are conceiving of the true web of impact that exists (with both positive and negative possibilities). 

Is your business thinking about the bigger picture in this way? 

What programs do you have in place to encourage employee safety beyond the work place?

How openly acknowledged is it that each worker is a member of the community inside the gates and in the wider world?

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks for your interest, Adam Fletcher

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