Feb 21, 2008

Hours of service issues on the railroads: part VIII, risk-informed fatigue management

[Our series on Dr. Martin Moore-Ede's testimony before Congress continues]

4. What is the most effective way of reducing fatigue risk? (continued)

Risk-Informed Performance-Based Fatigue Management?
The method of choice to immediately and effectively address the issue of railroad employee fatigue, which I propose that this committee actively encourage and endorse, is a process of Risk-Informed Performance-Based Fatigue Management.

Significant advances have been made in the development and validation of effective fatigue countermeasures in railroad operations in the past 10 years. Railroads, more than any other transportation mode, have expended considerable resources to advance the science of fatigue management. These include the development of training programs, work-rest scheduling systems and crew scheduling software, napping policies and sleep disorder screening programs, each of which in scientific studies has been shown to reduce fatigue.

However, the full benefits from this fatigue research have not yet been obtained because the application of these fatigue countermeasures across the railroad industry has to date been limited and inconsistent. Furthermore adequate measures have not been implemented for documenting results and effectiveness on an ongoing basis, or for holding managers accountable.

What has been missing is a disciplined approach which includes the following essential elements:

1. Development of Fatigue Management Plans
Every railroad operating in the US should develop with their unions a detailed Fatigue Management Plan and file this with the Federal Railroad Administration. This plan should address the objective quantitative assessment of fatigue risk across all of its different operations, the development and implementation of specific tailored countermeasures in each type of operation to minimize fatigue risk, and a process by which managers, supervisors and employees will be held accountable for measurable reduction in fatigue risk.

2. Risk-Informed Process
The plan must be risk-informed. Systematic data collection and risk modeling tools should be introduced so that the risk of fatigue can be calculated for each type of operation. Trends in fatigue risk should be tracked and reported, so that managers, supervisors, crew callers and employees can get the necessary feedback on what actions are effective and what are not.

It is essential to determine the extent, location and root causes of the risk, so that company resources can be focused most effectively. It may also be helpful to benchmark the company against others in the same industry so that management can weigh their progress in fatigue risk management against other comparable railroads.

3. Performance-Based Accountability
Managing by performance-based measures is a well established method of obtaining tangible results in a business. The key is determining the right performance measure. The most obvious measure might be thought to be the accident rate, but accidents are infrequent events and do not provide a measure of the risk of every employee on a month-to-month ongoing basis.

Furthermore, implementing management incentives based on reduction in accident or injury rates leads to an under-reporting of accidents, in part because this encourages managers to devise incentives for employees not to report events or injuries. We have seen managers make all employees who suffer accidents or injuries subject to disciplinary measures because they “were obviously not following required safety procedures.” This is a very effective way of reducing reported injuries! In contrast, using measures of fatigue risk gives managers incentives to address the root causes of operator fatigue, and therefore of fatigue-related accidents.

Related Posts:
* Hours of service issues on the railroads: part I
* Hours of service issues on the railroads: part II, sleep deprivation and alertness * Hours of service issues on the railroads: part III, safety threat?
* Hours of service issues on the railroads: part IV, increasing risk?
* Hours of service issues on the railroads: part V, hours of service rules
* Hours of service issues on the railroads: part VI, train control technology
* Hours of service issues on the railroads: part VII, alertness monitoring technology
* Hours of service issues on the railroads: part IX, parallel models
* Hours of service issues on the railroads: part X, how to proceed

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