The implementation of new rotations offshore has resulted in many Unite members working 21 days in a row, or more, for 12 hours a day or night.
As a result of this, many workers are now speaking to Unite about problems around fatigue at work. Fatigue is usually defined as “the decline in mental and / or physical performance which results from prolonged exertion, sleep loss or disruption of the internal clock”.
The Health and Safety Executive recognises that irregular hours of work, and work patterns that include night and early morning shifts, can lead to fatigue.
If workers are fatigued, they will be less alert, their reaction time will be slower, they will find it harder to concentrate and they may make poor decisions. This can lead to accidents and injuries.
So how can safety reps tackle fatigue at work? Here are some ideas:
- Carry out a survey of members to find out the cause of fatigue and raise it with the employer. There’s a section on fatigue in the Step Change Human Factors Toolkit: see http://humanfactors. petrolearn.com/ assessment/1
- Raise awareness about the dangers of fatigue
- Work with employers to ensure workers can report when they are fatigued without fear of repercussions
- Support members who feel fatigued by ensuring employers refer them to the medic, and then occupational health if necessary
- Ensure that causes of stress and fatigue are removed
- Support members who face disciplinary action over claims that they have made a mistake as a result of fatigue
All companies have, or should have, Management of Fatigue policy documents. But for these policies to work they have to be properly put in place and acted on – they can’t just sit in a drawer.