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Fatigue Management & Human Factors in our 24-hour Society
Fatigue Management & Human Factors in our 24-hour Society

The Fatigue Insider Blog

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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NASA test could keep an eye on sleep deprivation

Oct 09, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

A new study conducted at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in California identified a simple and easily obtainable set of eye movement measurements that can provide accurate insights into whether a person is sleep-deprived.
 
Participants spent two weeks on regular 8.5 hours per night sleep schedule and abstained from alcohol, drugs, and caffeine so that they were sure they started the experiment from the same baseline. Then participants spent up to 28 hours awake, where they were tested periodically to monitor how their visual and eye-movement performance changed.
 
The researchers found that when participants were asked to track stimuli with unpredictable onset, direction, speed and starting location, human eye movements were dramatically impaired.
 
These findings have important implications for people working in high-pressure jobs such as surgeons, military personnel, and truck drivers. These measures could be used to assess individuals working nightshifts.
 
Lee Stone, senior author on the study said: "There are significant safety ramifications for workers who may be performing tasks that require precise visual coordination of one's actions when sleep deprived or during night shifts. By looking at a wide variety of components of human eye movements, we could not only detect sleepiness but also distinguish it from other factors, such as alcohol use or brain injury, that we have previously shown cause subtly different deficits in eye movements."
 
Access the study in the Journal of Physiology here.

 

 

 

 


 

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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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Remembering Dr Rob Lee AO

Aug 28, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

Long-time aviation safety and human factors expert Dr Robert Lee AO sadly passed away in April this year at 74 after a battle with cancer.
 
An authority in aviation psychology and human factors, his professional work has been of great value to flight safety and across various modes of transport worldwide. He will be remembered as a dedicated public servant, a successful international diplomat, a towering figure in his field, as well as a loving family man and lead guitarist in Canberra band ‘Mid-Life Crisis’.
 
Dr Rob Lee was appointed senior psychologist with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1976. In 1983 he joined the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (BASI) as its first human factors specialist. He established and developed BASI’s capability in human factors, systems safety and research and later became director. In 1999 he was appointed director of human factors, systems safety and communications of the newly established Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
 
A spokesperson from the ATSB said of his leadership, “he transformed the Bureau from a largely reactive investigative agency to an innovative multi-skilled organisation that also concentrated on proactive accident prevention and safety enhancement.”

His contributions to aviation safety are immeasurable, but the millions of Australians who travel on a plane each year do so safely becuase of Dr Rob Lee.

Dr Adam Fletcher was honoured to be invited to memorialise Dr Rob Lee at the Safeskies 2019 conference. He will be speaking at the Dr Rob Lee Memorial & System Safety/Human Factors Panel Session on the 16th of October in Canberra.
 
Dr Adam Fletcher will also be at the PACDEFF 2019 conference in the Gold Coast. On the 3rd of September, he will do a presentation on what we can learn from pilots’ sleep data; as well as a workshop on the 5th of September on designing and implementing a Fatigue Risk Management System.
 
On September 10th, he will chair a session on shiftwork and disease at WTS’ Twenty-Fourth International Symposium on Shiftwork & Working Time in Idaho.

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Sleep deprivation: National Guard medical personnel

Aug 21, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

A new study in the Journal of Military Psychology of US Air National Guard medical personnel found that service members experienced levels of sleep restriction that resulted in significantly reduced cognitive effectiveness.
 
Part of the interest in studying National Guard personnel came from their unique position as service members who frequently have to transition from civilian to active-duty status, with their jobs often also incorporating shift work and long hours. As a reserve military force, most personnel have full-time civilian jobs outside of their military responsibilities. Depending on the nature of their military responsibilities, they may have to transition between these with very little rest in between, resulting in personnel who are very susceptible to showing up to active-duty already in a state of fatigue.
 
The authors of the study placed emphasis on the research showing that military personnel can often experience even greater fatigue-related risks than those associated with civilian groups like doctors or truck drivers. They attributed this the unique situations they are subjected to where “sleep opportunity is restricted, exacerbated by unique levels of physical and psychological stress, where consequences of error can be life or death.”
 
At the conclusion of the study, they delivered a sleep management workshop for National Guard Medical Personnel and found that members, as well as commanders, were highly receptive to the information provided. They concluded the study by advocating for the “necessity of targeted interventions to reduce fatigue-related harm to service members and the citizens they protect.”

 

Click here to read the full study by Lois James, Denise Smart, Tamara Odom-Maryon, Kimberly A. Honn & Stephanie Rowan.
 

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