What does a contemporary Fatigue Risk Management System look like?

At what level of fatigue would you want the workforce to stop and take action?Fatigue risk management system

Fatigue Symptom Assessment


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If someone was driving home from work following their night shift and they were fighting against sleep (eliciting symptoms in column 4 – moderately fatigued), what would you EXPECT them to do?…STOP!

When a workforce is asked where they expect their colleagues to stop and take action, everyone has the same expectation…stop and take preventative
action at ‘A Little Fatigued’.

There is an increasing body of research (Lee, 2016; Williamson, 2014, Lisper, 1986; Horne, 2010) that individuals can detect changes in their levels of sleepiness sufficiently to make a safe decision to stop their task. Sleep does not occur spontaneously or without warning. Drivers falling asleep are
unlikely to recollect having done so, but will be aware of the precursory state of increasing sleepiness, probably reaching a state of fighting off
sleep before an accident. As a driver cannot remain asleep for more than a few seconds without having an accident, this may account for why such recollection is poor in drivers who have been involved in an accident.

However, in a recent fatigue-related court case, a Queensland miner was awarded $1,250,000 in damages. The accident resulted in the individual suffering brain damage. During the court case, the defendant’s barrister argued that their client did not have any memory of the accident or of events leading up to it and said his client may not have been aware of the extent of his fatigue. As a result, the Supreme Court found the organisation negligent of not doing enough to reduce the risk of fatigue.

Learn More: How to create a fatigue resistant culture?

What can organisations do to help minimise the risk of fatigue?

Ethos Health recommends four areas (People, System, Culture and Leadership) that organisations should focus on to reduce the chance of a fatigue event escalating to a fatigue-related accident. Multiple and coordinated controls can be implemented into the fatigue risk management system, before and after any fatigue event. Ethos Health has created training packages that will suit all shift working environments, to enable proactive management of fatigue.

In shift working work environments it should be accepted that fatigue will occur at some point. Therefore, organisations need to offer a fatigue check
process that facilitates shared actions. Ethos Health has developed the Fatigue First Aid program to ensure both individual and shared duty of care
is taken. Too often the sole responsibility sits with the supervisor…our program empowers individuals and supervisors to take action proactively,
but also enable everyone to offer a consistent level of support.

The bowtie model below, identifies a range of risk factors that can lead to a fatigue event, which can subsequently escalate to a number of undesirable
outcomes, including a fatigue-related accident. Thus, a problem that has multiple risk factors will require appropriate control mechanisms as part
of a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) to avoid fatigue-related incidents occurring.

Fatigue Management Bowtie Model

Fatigue Risk Management System

To learn more about how Ethos Health’s Fatigue First Aid suite of services can help your organisation in reducing fatigue risk please call a consultant
(02) 4962 8700 , Or click here.


  • Lisper HO, Laurell H, van Loon J. Relation between time to falling asleep behind the wheel on a closed track and changes in subsidiary reaction time
    during prolonged driving on a motorway. Ergonomics. 1986;29(3):445-53.
  • Williamson A, Friswell R, Olivier J, Grzebieta R. Are drivers aware of sleepiness and increasing crash risk while driving? Accid Anal Prev. 2014;70:225-34.
  • Horne JA, Burley CV. We know when we are sleepy: subjective versus objective measurements of moderate sleepiness in healthy adults. Biol Psychol. 2010;83(3):266-8.
  • Lee, M.L., et al., High risk of near-crash driving events following night-shift work. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2016. 113(1): p. 176-81
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