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Fatigue is generally considered to be a decline in mental and/or physical performance that results from prolonged exertion, sleep loss and/or disruption of the internal clock. Here, we are more concerned with mental fatigue than physical fatigue; especially the impact that mental fatigue can have on human reliability.
The conditions that produce fatigue originate not only in the workplace but also in the employee’s personal life. Effective fatigue risk management requires a partnership with shared responsibility between the employee and the employer. Workplace factors include the length and time of day of the duty period, staffing levels, task deadlines and the availability of break periods. Personal factors leading to fatigue can include social and family commitments and disruptions, commute time, second jobs, and medical conditions that may reduce the quality or quantity of sleep. The employee has a responsibility to ensure, as much as possible, that he or she is rested and fit for duty before reporting for work.
Physical Fatigue. Physical fatigue concerns the inability to exert force with ones muscles to the degree that would be expected. It may be an overall tiredness of the whole body, or be confined to particular muscle groups. Physical fatigue most commonly results from physical exercise or loss of sleep. Physical fatigue often leads to mental fatigue.
Mental Fatigue. Mental fatigue, which may include sleepiness, concerns a general decrease of attention and ability to perform complex, or even quite simple tasks with customary efficiency. Mental fatigue often results from loss or interruption of the normal sleep pattern and is therefore of great concern to those, who are frequently required to work early in the morning or at night.
Sleep patterns are naturally associated with the body's circadian rhythms. Shift patterns and/or transit across time zones can interrupt circadian rhythms so that, for example, it may be difficult for flight crew or pilots on duty in the early hours of the morning or flight crew operating long-haul routes through multiple time zones to achieve satisfactory rest prior to commencing duty.
The accident report attached, highlights a fatality involving a helicopter pilot: http://aerossurance.com/helicopters/fatal-fatigue-amc-hems-loci/
How does your company manage fatigue?
The legal duty is on employers to manage risks from fatigue, irrespective of any individual’s willingness to work extra hours or preference for certain shift patterns for social reasons. Compliance with the Working Time Regulations alone is insufficient to manage the risks of fatigue.