With the rail industry regularly providing a 24-hour service, fatigue can be a serious risk factor when it comes to day-to-day operations. Often a catalyst for many accidents and incidents, accurately identifying the signs of fatigue is crucial for both the safety of rail passengers and fellow workers.
Although lack of sleep is usually the root cause of fatigue, it can be exacerbated by a number of other factors, such as time of day, diet, workload and shift patterns. A series of late nights and early mornings, coupled with irregular shift patterns, is a sure-fire way to become sleep deprived, and unfortunately this is all too common for rail engineers.
Can you identify if you or your colleagues are working while fatigued? There are seven warning signs to look out for, all of which can lead to impaired decision making, reduced reaction times, poor memory and an inability to identify risk.
- Blurred vision
- A slower than average reaction time
If you identify any of these behavioural changes in you or your colleagues, it’s important to address them quickly, rather than waiting till the end of your shift or a break. Stop what you are doing and immediately raise your concerns with a supervisor.
Effective fatigue management
Once concerns about fatigue have been raised, it’s crucial that positive steps are taken to reduce fatigue in the workplace and to avoid any fatigue-related accidents. Effective fatigue management in the rail industry should involve the following changes to current rail safety practices.
- Monitoring co-workers for signs of fatigue
- Fatigue education
- Extra rest breaks during shifts
- Changing shift patterns to avoid long hours and repetition
- Developing and implementing appropriate policies
- Rescheduling the scale and scope of work
As well as the changes to safety regulations and the responsibility of supervisors, individual rail engineers also have a responsibility to consider their own health and safety. Since working while fatigued is likely to cause errors in judgement or near-miss accidents, taking steps to improve your own wellbeing will not only benefit you, but will also help to ensure the safety of those around you.
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