Fatigue Management: Combating Fatigue

How to reduce your risk of fatigue related incidents.

Previously, we’ve talked about how to recognize the signs of fatigue, but what do you do when you notice those signs? If you missed our blog on Fatigue Management: Recognizing Fatigue, check it out here.

The average adult gets less than 8 hours of sleep a night, which means many of us are already suffering from fatigue and its effects. Unfortunately, recovering from a sleep deficit is not as simple as sleeping a little bit longer the next night. It takes several nights of uninterrupted sleep to recover from one night of lost sleep. There are factors that can help reduce the effects of fatigue which often require a conscious partnership between an individual and their employer.

How to combat fatigue.

Many companies have Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) which help to ensure that crewmember and other employees are scheduled with appropriate time off to get the required amount of rest, as well as give opportunities for reducing the effects of fatigue while on the job. These systems often calculate the amount of fatigue accrued for time on the job in order to efficiently schedule crewmembers as well as offer them appropriate breaks and opportunities to relieve fatigue while on duty.

Fatigue Management for Pilots

However, combating fatigue is not as simple as getting shift scheduling right. It is important that each individual does their part as well. While it can be tempting to trade sleep time in order to achieve other activities, this only adds to the sleep deficit and makes it continually harder to recover the missed sleep. Ensuring you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night is the best way to mitigate the effects of fatigue. It is also important that you reduce environmental factors that can disrupt sleep. Our natural sleep rhythms are attune to light so reducing the amount of light can help our bodies get to sleep and stay asleep. Noise is another factor. If you live or are staying in an area with a lot of noise, it can often be helpful to use white noise to drown out the disruptive noise. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is also important. While this can be difficult with changing schedules or night shifts, you can try to find ways to make the sleep you do get more effective, such as using sleep mask and light blocking curtains to keep daylight from disrupting your sleep.

While on the job, it can often be helpful to take short power naps during your breaks to help reduced the effects of fatigue. While this type of sleep does not allow for the deep sleep necessary to restore the brain to peak condition, it can help to reduce fatigue related incidents. Other methods of reducing fatigue can be strategic caffeine use, social interaction, and exercise, such as walking around a bit to wake up. It is important to remember than none of these are permanent solutions, and it is vital to get a full 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep as soon as you can.

Remember, you should communicate to your employer when you feel fatigue may be a hazard to job safety. Many companies have systems in place to report safety hazards. It is important that we work together to keep our work environments as safe as possible.

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