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It’s 3 am, do you know how fatigued your workers are?

Derailed train

When the news of the Chicago train derailment came across our desks last week, we immediately took notice of the time of day the incident occurred. We know from experience and science, that 3 AM is not an optimal time for us to be up and about, performing safety sensitive tasks.

In our 24-hour society, however, the world doesn’t shut down at night so that everyone can go to sleep. Police officers need to respond to emergencies, nurses need to tend to patients, machinery operators need to make sure facilities keep running, and transportation workers need to make sure travellers are delivered safely to their destinations – at all hours of the day.

The responsibility to ensure these, and other shift-related jobs, are performed effectively and without risk to human safety must be shared by both the employer and the worker. There are number of variables which can contribute to someone’s level of fatigue on the job – Are the work shifts inconsistent? Does their work schedule give them enough time off to sleep? Does the worker have a sleep disorder? Does the worker have children at home who are keeping them up? Does the sleeping environment of the worker allow for restful sleep? Does the worker make an effort to obtain 7-9 hours of sleep per day? … this list could go on.

The fact is, all of these specific variables (and more) can be addressed if an employer asks two questions:

  • Does the work schedule provide the worker with the opportunity to maintain regular, sufficient sleep?
  • Is the worker taking advantage of the sleep opportunity being provided to them?

Obtaining objective answers to these questions is actually easier than one might think. The technology and tools to analyze work schedules and measure worker’s sleep is commercially available. (Full disclosure here, we are talking about Fatigue Science technology.) These tools can help employers identify the possibility of worker’s accumulating sleep debt based on their schedules, in a scientifically-validated and meaningful way. They can also help organizations identify if their workers are indeed accumulating risk-inducing levels of sleep debt due to insufficient sleep, whether related to schedule, lifestyle, health or a combination of these factors. By identifying the causes of fatigue in the workplace, organizations and employees can start to manage these variables.

In the case of the O’Hare Airport train crash, the operator has admitted to falling asleep while driving. Additionally, it was noted that she had previously fallen asleep on the job only last month. While it is extremely fortunate there have been no fatalities in either incidents, the risk to human life and the growing financial costs associated with last Monday’s event should serve as a wake up to organizations in any industry. It is not enough to just investigate whether or not fatigue is a factor in a workplace accident, employers and authorities need to take the next steps to address it and reduce the risk of it happening again. Whether a roster of train operators, police officers, or heavy machinery operators, Fatigue can be both measured and managed – before someone makes a mistake that puts themselves, and other human life at risk.

Readiband technology to be included in WSU presentation at White House Safety Datapalooza

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have been looking at ways of leveraging data from wearable or mobile technology to help keep police officers safe and effective on the job. Enter their ‘BeSharp’ app which utilizes Fatigue Science’s Readiband technology and our SAFTE algorithm.

Readiband models performance based on sleep activity, provides real-time effectiveness scores, and determines when fatigue levels will reach a point where safety and performance are at risk. WSU researchers have created a mobile app, that will take Readiband’s real-time feedback and proactively alert officers via text message when it is time to take a break to recharge their mental effectiveness and reaction time.

 

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The test version of this app, along with the Readiband, will be presented at this week’s White House Safety Datapalooza Conference by WSU Spokane professor of criminal justice, Bryan Vila. The project will contribute to the White House’s open data initiative, and help “enhance understanding of how fatigue affects safety on the road and in the community” and “enable evaluation of the impact of fatigue management efforts on officer safety.”

Fatigue Science CEO, Sean Kerklaan, has been part of the project team, which includes Jo Strang (American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association) and Gregory Godbout (White House-OSTP Presidential Fellow) and WSU Professor, Bryan Vila.
“We are pleased to have been included in this project and have our technology presented as part of ‘BeSharp’ at the White House Safety Datapalooza Conference.” Sean says, “While this app is still in a test version, it’s been great to work with the BeSharp team and see our technology incorporated into a new platform, which only increases the reach of this powerful data, and could contribute to police officer on-the-job safety and effectiveness.”

3 good reasons to manage your sleep this holiday season

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This time of year, festivities are plenty and most are likely to find themselves participating in numerous social engagements, last minute shopping trips, and family dinners.

There are many good reasons to get quality sleep year round, but during the holidays making the effort to properly manage your sleep will mean better enjoyment of your time and a safe and productive return to work. Here are three reasons why:

1. What holiday stress? – Studies show that well rested people have better stress management – Getting good sleep means handling that dinner with the meddling family member or sibling rivalry with much more grace and much less stress.

2. Consume less calories – Well rested people are known to consume less calories and make better dietary judgements. Studies show that you are more likely to eat fat and calorie laden food when you are tired. Of course you want to enjoy those cookies, festive cheese platters, and Dad’s famous gravy, but getting sleep might be a good way to make sure you aren’t so inclined to overdo it.

3. Safe and happy travels – An abundance of holiday gatherings can mean a lot of miles on the road. Keeping up with your sleep means you will have better reaction time and make smarter decisions while driving.

If you are fortunate enough to enjoy some extra time off during the holidays, take advantage of the opportunity to bank sleep or make up for your previous sleep debt so you can return to work safe and productive in the new year. If your schedule requires that you keep working alongside all the seasonal festivities, be sure to take advantage of any opportunity you have to maintain sleep and have friends or family support your need to be productive at work throughout the holidays by providing a quiet environment to sleep or nap when you need it.

While 7-9 hours of nightly sleep is ideal to maintain good mental effectiveness and safety, there may be a few whose holiday social and work demands interfere with getting sufficient sleep. If you are balancing a number of demands and aren’t able to get all the sleep you need, take extra caution with or postpone safety sensitive tasks as the holidays wind up and plan to make sleep your #1 priority in the new year.

From the team at Fatigue Science, have a safe and restful holiday season!

Using technology to address driver fatigue in the railroad industry

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As new details of the recent train derailment in New York emerge, questions about risk management in the railroad industry keep surfacing. We won’t know for certain what the cause or causes of this unfortunate accident were until the final investigative report is released but in the meantime, media is leaning towards driver fatigue as the cause of the train derailment and have started raising questions about the possible use of various technologies to prevent accidents and save lives.

One such piece of technology in question is known as ‘positive train control’ (PTC) and works by setting permissions to onboard computers authorizing the vehicle’s safe travel route – including distances, speeds, and location. The movement of the train is then monitored and the technology will shut down or slow a train that falls outsides it’s permitted travel parameters. In the case of this recent derailment, the train would have been halted before it was able to travel into a turn at such a high speed.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) believes this PTC technology will save lives but studies show that the cost to implement are as much at $9-12 billion over the next 20 years and involves the complications of upgrading 60,000 miles of track and 20,000 locomotives with new technologies.

Richard Blumenthal is one of several New York Senators recommending that trains be equipped with audio and visual recorders to prove fatigue as a factor in collisions and catch ‘behaviour patterns’ that could be prevented in the future. While the costs of implementing this technology are said to be ‘negligible’ compared to what this recent crash will cost, it is not a technology that can prevent future tragedies, like the Bronx train derailment, from occurring.

Fatigue Science Co-Founder, Pat Byrne, has over 30 years of experience in occupational health and safety and understands the costs of these incidences quite well: “Fatigue accidents are rare but when they happen are catastrophic and, on average, cost five times the amount of non-fatigue related accidents.” he says, “With the cost of this recent New York train accident estimated to come in at hundreds of millions of dollars, the railroad industry should take another heavy look at the timing and budgeting of implementing fatigue monitoring technologies. Though, none of these technologies in question actually address the problem in identifying why the drivers are starting their shifts in a fatigued state and mitigating that in the first place.”

It is unlikely that the investigation will reveal work scheduling as a fatiguing factor, since railroads are required by federal regulation to use Fatigue Science’s FAST (Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool)  to ensure they are providing workers the opportunity to get the sleep they need. If fatigue is determined to be a factor in this accident it is more likely that the driver was not able to sleep well enough or long enough, in spite of the sleep opportunity being provided to him. These circumstances are normally due to sleep disorders and/or lifestyle issues, requiring medical intervention and sleep hygiene training as part of an organizational fatigue risk management program. Unfortunately, at this time, railroads typically do little to support workers in dealing with these severe sleep and fatigue issues – and they won’t be remedied by installing a video monitoring device in the cab of a train.

The Globe and Mail: Helping companies track and optimize workers’ sleep schedules

The Globe and Mail’s, Ivor Tossell, recently spoke with Fatigue Science CEO, Sean Kerklaan, about the work we do with organizations to help them understand and manage their employee fatigue risk and performance.

The engineers at Fatigue Science, a Vancouver firm that tracks and optimizes workers’ sleep schedules, chose a vivid way of framing the effects of fatigue on its subjects. Instead of displaying an essentially arbitrary unit of fatigue on graphs, it expresses its in a far more familiar context: Blood-alcohol level. After all, as CEO Sean Kerklaan explains, the effects of fatigue are actually very comparable to the effects of alcohol…

Read the full post

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Vancouver Sun: Dying for sleep – Vancouver company’s technology measures sleep

Gillian Shaw writes:

Sleep is crucial – “Spring forward, fall back” means clocks get set back an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday so we get an extra hour of sleep. How important is getting enough sleep? Crucial, according to Sean Kerklaan, chief executive of Vancouver’s Fatigue Science…

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