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The Fatigue Insider Blog

US Worksite Health ScoreCard to include fatigue

Jan 22, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

 

In a step in the right direction, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) updated their Worksite Health ScoreCard in 2019 to include sleep and fatigue questions for the first time since it was introduced in 2012. The tool is for employers to assess whether they have implemented evidence-based health and wellbeing programs in their workplace.
 
The ScoreCard is comprehensive in nature and not intended to be a quick 'tick and flick' tool. As such, the inclusion of fatigue and sleep section signals that the CDC is taking this factor seriously in the provision of a safe and hazard-free workplace.
 
The new fatigue and sleep section includes questions on whether the workplace has written policy on scheduling that aims to reduce employee fatigue, the provision of educational materials and screenings related to sleep and common sleep disorders, as well as whether there are solutions offered to combat drowsy and distracted driving.
 
Introducing sleep and fatigue concerns into this ScoreCard alongside other important health risks like nutrition, diabetes, physical exercise, cancer, heart attacks and many others is a positive step in the right direction. It serves as an indication to employers of the importance of fatigue-related workplace concerns for the health, safety, and productivity of employees.

 

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Getting through the day when you're sleep deprived

Jan 08, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

While we absolutely do not recommend letting yourself get sleep deprived, sometimes there are days when it’s just unavoidable. So if you couldn’t sleep last night, we’ve got some tips to help you power through a work day when you’d much rather hit the snooze button. They’ll also ensure that you are not relying on behaviours that lead to continued sleepless nights.
 
Be strategic about the tasks you have to get done
Be aware that a sleep-deprived brain can sustain focus for far less time than a normal one, so try to postpone tasks that require difficult decisions and critical thinking for tomorrow. Nevertheless, there will be duties that you cannot put off, and for those, you have to think realistically about how you are going to achieve them. You might have the urge to procrastinate your more difficult tasks for later in the day, but try to get them done as early as possible, because your cognitive function will continue to decline throughout the day. Leave busy work for the end of the day, when you’ll need a break from tasks that require focused attention.
 
Caffeine is your friend
This may seem obvious, but you’ll need some caffeine to get you through the day, just don’t overdo it. Everyone’s caffeine tolerance is different, but studies have shown that the body can handle no more than 400 milligrams a day (for comparison, a shot of espresso is roughly 100 milligrams). A caffeinated drink can be really useful to get you through tasks that require intense focus, like driving, but don’t drink it to close to bedtime or you’ll continue to compound your sleep loss. Try to avoid caffeinated energy/soft drinks, as the sugar will make you crash, counteracting the effect of the caffeine.
 
Get outside and do some exercise
While it might seem like the last thing you would want to do after a sleepless night, a brisk walk in the sunlight will do you a world of good. Getting your blood flowing and producing some endorphins will energise you, so try to do this in the morning and/or throughout the day, especially if your job requires you to be mostly sedentary. The sunlight on your face will also help your brain shut off melatonin production.
 
Eat well and stay hydrated
While eating well is important every day for cognitive function, it is doubly important when your energy supplies are already depleted. Make sure you don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, as eating within an hour of waking up will boost your mood and cognitive performance for the early part of your day. When you are sleep deprived you are more likely to crave simple carbs and sugars, but avoid them at all costs, as they will likely provide a rush of unsustained energy and a crash that may leave you more tired and hungry. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water too, it’s not going to combat sleepiness, but you’ll feel much worse if you’re dehydrated as well as exhausted.

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Smart drugs: the rise of cognitive doping

Nov 13, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

 
More and more people are turning to pharmaceutical drugs to improve their performance at work and university, which raises a lot of questions about their efficacy and safety. How did nootropics like Modafinil go from a powerful narcolepsy drug to the centre of the conversation about doping at work and unrealistic expectations of productivity?

 

Nootropics are a broad range of drugs said to improve cognitive function, from improving memory retention to spurring creativity. The drug Modafinil keeps you awake far beyond normal limits and is said to allow you to maintain intense focus for a period of time. It was taken by helicopter pilots to stay alert as they carried US Special Forces to and from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. It can also have serious side effects like intense headaches and anxiety, and we don’t even know the long-term safety issues for those using them as a performance enhancer rather than a narcolepsy drug.

 
In 2011, just over 650,000 people in the US had Modafinil prescriptions. By 2012, that number had risen to 1.9 million, a figure not including people obtaining it illegally. Drugs like these have become more widespread in competitive and high-stakes environments like universities and Silicon Valley, as expectations about productivity have skyrocketed. We must question the kind of working environment that incentivises taking powerful drugs in order to keep up with demands.

 

It also calls into question the efficacy of using drugs like these to get a competitive edge. Is it cheating? Some sports organisations ban the usage of drugs like Adderall for those with an ADHD diagnosis for the same reasons they ban steroids and other performance enhancers. Will employer drug tests soon screen for modafinil use? Or on the contrary, will CEOs welcome the rise of extra-sharp workers who never need sleep?


 

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Is a midnight snack the key to staying alert?

Nov 06, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


A recent study by researchers at the University of South Australia looked at how food intake can affect those working the nightshift. By testing the impact of a snack, a meal, or no food at all, the study found that a simple snack was the best choice for maximising alertness and productivity.

The study looked at a small group of 44 nightshift workers over a week, dividing them into groups to test three different midnight eating patterns: a meal, a snack, and no food. They were then asked to report on their levels of hunger, gut reaction and sleepiness.
 
It found that all participants reported increased sleepiness and fatigue, but those who had a snack reduced the impact of those feelings. Additionally, the snack group did not experience the same uncomfortable gut reactions as the group that ate a meal.
 
In today’s 24/7 economy, working the nightshift is increasingly common, with industries like health care, aviation, transport and mining needing employees to work around the clock. Of Australia’s 1.4 million shift workers, over 200,000 (15%) regularly work the nightshift. Upsetting the body’s circadian rhythm in this way can be a real health and safety risk, which is why robust fatigue management needs to be in place for employee wellbeing as well as productivity.
 
Lead researcher Charlotte Gupta said that the next step is research into how different types of snacks could affect night shift workers. She says that the findings have to potential to affect thousands of shift workers; “the findings will inform the most strategic eating patterns on-shift and can hopefully contribute to more alert and better performing workers.”
 
The study can be accessed here.

 

 

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Developments in trucking laws: Fatigue risk management

Oct 30, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


 

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NVHR) is calling for more flexibility in fatigue rules in its submission to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review being conducted by the National Transport Commission.

The implementation of the submission would allow operators with demonstrably robust fatigue management systems more flexibility to manage fatigue risks. This could mean a change in framework and culture surrounding fatigue management, allowing it to expand from basic prescriptive work and rest hours.
 
Dr Adam Fletcher said, “Fatigue management is about much more than work hours and sleep. It also relates to workload, individual factors including health and sleep timing preferences, and the ability for drivers to be flexible when they feel it is safer...This development reflects a closer alignment with the point I have made publicly and with regulators for many years.”
 
NHVR CEO, Sal Petroccitto said, “the NHVR believes that prescriptive work and rest hours should still play a role in providing a minimum ‘safe harbour’ for drivers, but that a multi-tiered approach to fatigue risk management would allow flexibility for operators who take up additional, new or innovative safety practices.”
 
Current laws reduced fatigue-related crashes between 2003 and 2009, but "the rate of heavy vehicle crashes caused by driver fatigue" has been stable since then. An expansion in the scope of fatigue management to include factors like workload, health, and driver autonomy could bring the rate of fatigue-related crashes down further.

 

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Workload and Cabin Crew Fatigue

Oct 02, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

A new study published in the International Journal of Aerospace Psychology examined the correlation between fatigue and workload in cabin crews, and found perceived workload to be an independent predictor of fatigue.
 
Cabin crew face workload demands very different from that of pilots, their responsibilities include a lot more physical tasks as well as factors like turbulence, passenger demands, and medical incidents. The need for them to be awake during all meal services also means that they have less time available for significant blocks of rest.
 
The study evaluated Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) tailored to the needs of cabin crews on ultra-long haul flights (longer than 16 hours). 55 airline cabin crew wore an actigraph and completed a sleep diary during an ultra-long trip. Before landing, the participants completed a psychomotor performance test and after landing they rated their workload for the flight. They found that on higher workload flight, members of the cabin crew felt more sleepy and fatigued, and were less successful at their psychomotor performance test.
 
Lead author Margo van den Berg, a PhD candidate at Massey University said, “It is important that the effects of workload in flight should not be viewed in isolation... Cabin crew often experience fatigue as a consequence of their irregular work schedules, which include early starts, late finishes, night work, frequent time zone changes, and long duty periods, causing sleep loss and circadian rhythm disruption. Considering that their most important role is to ensure cabin and passenger safety during flight, cabin crew fatigue and its associated risks needs to be managed carefully.”
 
As airline cabin crews are responsible for ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers aboard flights, it is important to manage and decrease fatigue-related operational risk.
 
You can view the study here.

 

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Sleeping pilots and the need for proactive fatigue management

Sep 11, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

The Federal Aviation Administration in the US is investigating a June incident where a helicopter pilot fell asleep mid-air. The Boston MedFlight pilot was transporting a patient from Martha’s Vineyard to a Boston Hospital for treatment.
 
MedFlight CEO Maura Hughes said in a statement that fatigue played a role, adding that they “are now working with a fatigue management consultant and a safety consultant to review our policies and procedures so that this isolated incident does not happen again.” Isolated or not, fatigue management systems can and should be in place before incidents like these occur, not just reactive in nature.
 
This comes after the recent release of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on the Australian pilot who fell asleep and overflew his King’s Island destination by 78 kilometres late last year. They found that the pilot had been awake for 24 hours before the incident and had not been able to sleep during a scheduled three-hour rest period before the flight. The report stated his level of fatigue would have affected his performance, even if he had been able to sleep during the rest period.
 
Nat Nagy, who is the ATSB's executive director of transport safety, placed emphasis on the role of both pilots and the airline operators in fatigue management. "Just as it is the pilot's responsibility to use rest periods to get adequate sleep and to remove themselves from duty if they feel fatigued, it is also incumbent on operators to implement policies and create an organisational culture where flight crew can report fatigue and remove themselves from duty in a supportive environment."
 
While in both instances no one was injured and the aircrafts sustained no damage, they signal a greater need for aviation operators to have proactive and robust fatigue management strategies, rather than waiting for an incident to occur.

 

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