3 January 2020 posted by Recovery Partners

‘Fly In, Fly Out Workers’ are at the high-end of fatigue in the workplace.  They double their risk when they combine flying with driving.

In the past the only workers that required to fly and drive tended to be workers in the executive or senior leadership roles, today, with travel being so affordable, the fly and drive workers could be any role which requires manual or in-person expertise.  

All workers need fatigue support because fatigue is similar to the effects of drugs or alcohol in the workplace.  Falling asleep, short term memory problems, reduced capacity to engage in effective interpersonal communication, impaired decision making or judgement, reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes, drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, poor concentration or blurred vision are the result of fatigue.  

Executives or senior leaders tend to be supported. They have an Executive Assistant, a Board, management team and other support functions which helps them create work flexibility and allows them to factor in down-time.

That said, it is when the senior leader does not have a strong support network or when their accountability fails them that we see fatigue play out and it can be detrimental.

Take for example when music management (or their support network) fails the talent.  Touring tends to involve a lot of travel both domestic and internationally. 

We all remember the slow-motion train wreck of the hugely talented Amy Winehouse.  Amy’s management put the six-time Grammy award winner on stage at Birmingham highly intoxicated and the public’s reaction was swift.  Cancelled tours and public ridicule faced an already troubled individual.  Live Nation, her promotor at the time, blamed “the rigors involved in touring and the intense emotional strain that Amy has been under in recent weeks.”  Amy’s story ended in her tragic death, removing the opportunity to watch her amazing talent unfold.

Fatigue management is a difficult balancing act of taking care of people and ensuring business continuity. 

The good news is that simple techniques and a culture of Think Safe, Take Action can help organisations to manage workplace fatigue, some tips are as follows: 

  1. Risk Assessment – this should be carried out by supervisors or management to assess which employees are high risk (including shift, night, fly in fly out, drive in, drive out, seasonal, on call or call back, emergency, medical or other health care workers) to develop a scale model for identifying activities that hold a high degree of risk.

  2. Scheduling – make sure the schedule includes space for the worker to recover and rest and is mindful of safety critical work. What will help here is to think like a fellow human being. For example, all humans need to eat, play and sleep and most body clocks do not function at optimal best between the hours of 2 am to 6 am and 2 pm to 4 pm. 

Plan shift work and rosters so that the work is delivered when the worker is operating at their ultimate best.  Set other people up to succeed.

  1. Role demands – include functions like job rotation, redesign roles involving excessive mental and physical fatigue, have contingency plans, plan for peaks and troughs, and ensure you have fit for purpose machinery or other equipment.

  2. Environmental Planning – use job rotation to minimise exposure to extreme temperature conditions, create breaks for rest and rehydration and workspaces should be correctly ventilated, well lit, safe and secure and provide adequate areas for rest, sleep and meal breaks.

  3. Workplace Fatigue Policy – have a policy which includes consultation with workers on fatigue and communicate it to supervisors and managers.

Like any good Fatigue policy, it should include roles and responsibilities, maximum and minimal hours, work-related travel (and how to manage fatigue during travel), control and risk measures, self-assessment checklists, procedures for reporting potential hazards, fatigue risks and procedures for managing fatigued workers.   

Overall setting other people up for success and a culture of Think Safe Take Action will naturally create an environment where people want to care for their colleagues.

Need help with creating a Think Safe Take Action culture?  Get in touch by calling 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or emailing admin@rrp.com.au.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au