2019 Volume 57 Issue 2 Pages 264-280
Traditionally, working time arrangements to limit fatigue-related risk have taken a prescriptive approach, which sets maximum shift durations in order to prevent excessive buildup of fatigue (and the associated increased risk) within shifts and sets minimum break durations to allow adequate time for rest and recovery within and/or between shifts. Prescriptive rule sets can be successful when, from a fatigue-related risk standpoint, they classify safe work hours as permitted and unsafe work hours as not permitted. However, prescriptive rule sets ignore important aspects of the biological factors (such as the interaction between circadian and homeostatic processes) that drive fatigue, which are critical modulators of the relationship between work hours and fatigue-related risk. As such, in around-the-clock operations when people must work outside of normal daytime hours, the relationship between regulatory compliance and safety tends to break down, and thus these rule sets become less effective. To address this issue, risk management-based approaches have been designed to regulate the procedures associated with managing fatigue-related risk. These risk management-based approaches are suitable for nighttime operations and a variety of other non-standard work schedules, and can be tailored to the particular job or industry. Although the purpose of these fatigue risk management approaches is to curb fatigue risk, fatigue risk cannot be measured directly. Thus, the goal is not on regulating fatigue risk per se, but rather to put in place procedures that serve to address fatigue before, during, and after potential fatigue-related incidents. Examples include predictive mathematical modeling of fatigue for work scheduling, proactive fatigue monitoring in the workplace, and reactive post-incident follow-up. With different risks and different needs across industries, there is no “one size fits all” approach to managing fatigue-related risk. However, hybrid strategies combining prescriptive rule sets and risk management-based approaches can create the flexibility necessary to reduce fatigue-related risk based on the specific needs of different work environments while maintaining appropriate regulatory oversight.