Managing Safety Performance NewsFlash

Fatigue

 “Fatigue” football coach Vince Lombardi would say, “makes cowards of us all.” That may – or may not – be true. But what is absolutely true is that fatigue makes us less safe.
 
The National Transportation Safety Board says nearly 20% of investigations of rail accidents between 2001 and 2012 identified fatigue as a cause or contributing factor. Research suggests that staying awake for 21 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of .08.
 
Fatigue is one of the many tough safety challenges every leader faces. Part of the problem is that the sources – or root causes – of fatigue don’t just come from one place. Sure, hard physical labor done over long hours is a clear-cut cause, as are the hours of work, both length and schedule. But mental fatigue brought about by a demanding task requiring acute concentration, or a crisis, or stress can be just as debilitating.
 
Those are the work-related causes. Then there are all the non-work causes of fatigue, that often show up in inadequate rest.
 
Nothing new in any of this. As to what a leader can do about this all too familiar challenge, a big part of the solution – and prevention – rests on the shoulders of the followers. They’re usually the ones who best appreciate the onset of the problem and deal with prevention – at home.
 
Asking a few Darn Good Questions on the subject never hurts. You might start by asking, How can you tell when you’re getting too tired at work?
 
Finally, when fatigue makes its appearance on the job, as the leader you always have the option to Stop The Job.


Paul Balmert
July 2017

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