Frequently Asked Questions on Fatigue Risk Management

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Fatigue Risk Management is a critical aspect of workplace safety and productivity. Our experts shed light on the frequently asked questions surrounding Fatigue Risk Management, in relation to the aviation industry and services offered by aviation safety services Baines Simmons.

What is Fatigue Risk Management? 

Simply put, Fatigue Risk Management recognises that hours of work regulations (for example Flight Time Limitations) are insufficient to control fatigue in safety critical workers.

Fatigue is just another hazard, a contributor to human error and reduced human performance, and so needs to be managed. This is either through the Safety Management System (SMS), or a formal ‘Fatigue Risk Management System’ (FRMS), which uses additional data sources and greater detail of analysis where it has been identified that fatigue risk needs particularly close attention. 

Why is Fatigue Risk Management important in the aviation industry? 

All organisations across the aviation industry are required by the regulation to manage hazards. Fatigue is simply another hazard.

In most parts of the world, there are specific regulatory requirements for those in the flight operations domain to manage the fatigue of pilots and cabin crew, whilst EASA requires that maintenance organisations consider fatigue in the manpower plan.

Over and above the regulation however, Fatigue Risk Management is important across the aviation industry because the nature of the work that is undertaken across the industry has the potential to expose personnel to elevated levels of fatigue.

Sleep loss, extended hours awake, working during circadian low periods in the middle of the night, and varying levels of workload are common across our industry, and are the key contributors to fatigue.

Elevated fatigue levels erode the performance of the workforce, impacting situational awareness, risk-based decision making, memory, ability to absorb and interpret the changing situation in front of us and to react appropriately. These are all critical factors to protect our organisations against incidents and near misses.

What are the components of a Fatigue Risk Management program?

No matter what it is called in your industry (Fatigue Risk Management System, Fatigue Risk Management Plan, Fatigue Risk Management, Fatigue Risk Management Programme, to name just a few variations), all approaches are based on Safety Management Systems.

This means that Fatigue Risk Management is data- and risk-driven, where reactive, proactive and predictive data from your organisation is used to identify the contributors to fatigue, the risk level associated with fatigue, and how effectively mitigations and controls are working.

This is governed by processes (for example rostering or scheduling guidelines to avoid highly fatiguing work schedules), an overarching policy outlining the business approach and endorsed by the Accountable Manager and supported by effective training and communication relating to fatigue.

Like all safety programmes, assurance is an essential element, checking ‘how well is it working?’ for your mitigations, overall fatigue levels, training effectiveness, communications – everything that you do. 

What are the benefits of Fatigue Risk Management? 

The primary aim and intention of Fatigue Risk Management is to reduce organisational risk, improve safety, and avoid fatigue-related incidents, accidents and near misses. However, there are other benefits too.

These include the potential for more effective training (people who sleep poorly struggle to retain and integrate new information), increased staff retention due to ‘fatigue-friendly’ working practices, and improved safety culture, to name just a few.

Within flight operations, some national regulations also provide the opportunity for organisations with a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) that is approved by the regulator to apply to work outside specified flight time limitations.

Whilst most well-known for enabling Ultra-Long Haul / Ultra-Long Range (ULH/ULR) flights which go beyond the maximum daily flight duty period, this mechanism can be used to allow operations – at an equivalent or better level of safety to working within the regulations – that competitor operators cannot do. 

What does the FRM Diagnostics involve?  
A Fatigue Risk Management Diagnostic (FRMD) is a consultancy service that provides an independent assessment of the maturity of your fatigue risk management processes and procedures, the management of fatigue, and how well it is working to control fatigue.

The FRMD includes:

• Assessing your processes and procedures according to local regulation and best practice
• Speaking with your staff through interviews, and focus groups to determine their understanding of fatigue, their experiences of your fatigue risk management approach, and what contributes to their fatigue levels. In large organisations, this is supported by a survey to collect views from as many people as possible
• Working with the safety, scheduling, and operational departments to assess the reality of fatigue risk management approaches ‘on the ground’
• Use of a bio-mathematical fatigue modelling to analyse planned and actual rosters across a 12-month period to identify fatigue ‘hot-spots’ and see how well fatigue mitigations in the rostering process are working

At the end of the FRMD, you are provided with our assessment of the maturity of your current fatigue risk management approach, identified ‘fatigue hot-spots’ and the contributors to those ‘hot-spots’ and recommendations to improve.

This may be at the start of your FRM journey, or after you have been working to manage fatigue for several years, as an independent check on your progress as you strive for continuous improvement. 

Fatigue Risk Management from Baines Simmons

To ensure that fatigue is controlled, safety critical industries worldwide are being recommended to implement elements of effective Fatigue Risk Management (FRM) alongside prescriptive hours of work limitations. Baines Simmons Fatigue Risk Management Diagnostic (FRMD) assesses the extent to which your organisation is exposed to fatigue risk and the maturity and effectiveness of the FRM processes that are already in place.

For more information, contact our team today.