(54v) Staying Alert: Incorporating Fatigue in Risk Management | AIChE

(54v) Staying Alert: Incorporating Fatigue in Risk Management

Human fatigue is a peculiar issue in safety and risk management. On one hand, imagining fatigue as a factor that can contribute to adverse safety events seems rational and intuitive. This suggestion is supported by research indicating that approximately 13% of workplace injuries can be at least partially attributed to fatigue [1]. On the other hand, managing fatigue risks in practice can be quite challenging. Specific difficulties include realistic assessment of fatigue, prioritization of fatigue hazards, and development of risk-assessable scenarios that link fatigue hazards to adverse events.

This paper reviews these and other challenges to incorporating fatigue into the risk management process. After a brief review of some scientific principles of fatigue and their connections to specific operational concerns, the paper outlines a sensible approach and specific techniques that can be implemented.

The overarching approach involves developing elements of a comprehensive fatigue risk management system (FRMS). An FRMS is a risk-based method based on scientific principles and operational experience [2]. The data-driven FRMS approach appreciates that different operations can expose workers to different fatigue risks. Thus, it moves beyond more traditional one-size-fits-all prescriptions, such as hours-of-service restrictions and mandatory rest periods.

The paper discusses potential data sources that can be used for the FRMS and offers ways to analyze and apply those data. Companies pursuing the FRMS approach can make significant progress simply by incorporating fatigue into existing Process Safety Management (PSM) system elements (e.g., reporting schemes, training programs, incident investigations). Guidance on how FRMS elements can be aligned with existing PSM features is offered.

Special attention is paid to the FRMS element known as a fatigue risk assessment (FRA). An FRA mirrors more common risk assessments, such as HAZOPs and HAZIDs. However, FRA processes are specifically designed to (a) identify situations where fatigue may pose hazards, (b) assess the risks presented by fatigue hazards, and (c) consider existing and future fatigue countermeasures. FRA processes therefore offer a method for understanding more specific ways human error can lead to adverse events. This contrasts more traditional approaches in which operator error may be noted as a reason that a critical adverse event occurs, for example, but little may be said about the nature of that error or how it can be prevented or mitigated. FRA processes and other techniques discussed in this paper provide opportunities to systematically and proactively address a known contributor to human performance gaps – human fatigue.

[1] Uehli et al. (2014)

[2] FRMS Implementation Guide for Operators, ICAO / IATA / IFALPA, 1st Ed. (2011).


This paper has an Extended Abstract file available; you must purchase the conference proceedings to access it.


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