There's a wealth of evidence supporting fatigue as a demonstrated risk to both health and safety. For moderate and high risk environments, a strong business case can be built to justify comprehensive management of fatigue risks. We have evolved within health and safety to the point where proactively managing non-physical hazards, such as fatigue, is recognized as good business sense. So the question remains:
Why are the majority of organizations in North America still not effectively managing fatigue as a hazard?
To truly understand the relative inertia in dealing with fatigue, one needs to both understand the barriers that currently exist and recognize the importance of managing the hazard of fatigue across all levels of operations. Fatigue is a hazard that can exist at the worker level, due to worker health issues or workers improperly prioritizing sleep, as well as at an organizational level, when fatigue risks are inherent within the scope of operations. Recognizing the different sources of this hazard allows for comprehensive and effective mitigation strategies.
As North America is not the first to have recognized or moved toward managing fatigue issues, there exists a myriad of proven best practices that can be used to effectively manage fatigue. What is currently lacking in many companies, is the awareness of the need to assess existing risks to proactively manage fatigue; and the best practices available to assist in successfully implementing these targeted management strategies. Different strategies are needed for low, moderate and high levels of fatigue risk exposure.
Properly managing fatigue in a high risk environment typically involves multiple levels of control, implemented with strong education and training, to allow for a cultural shift in existing safety management. This shift can only be accomplished through awareness and knowledge at all levels of the organization. This safety culture shift often starts with health and safety professionals able to understand fatigue issues and bring forward comprehensive plans to their organizations to effectively create change.