According to a recent survey of over 27,000 people in 22 countries, insomnia (or problems with sleeping) ranks as the second-most frequent health complaint after the common cold. Sleepiness / fatigue in the work place can lead to poor concentration, absenteeism, accidents, errors, injuries, and fatalities; fatigue has also been associated with some of the most notorious modern catastrophes such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Shift workers are exposed to sleep disturbance as an inherent condition of work. When considering that the jobs of shift workers frequently involve safety- and production-critical tasks, managing the risks associated with shift worker fatigue should be an ongoing activity of O&G organizations. This has been identified and is addressed by industry guidance such as API RP 755, which is aimed at locations where shift workers commute to work. In contrast, the system described in this paper specifically addresses offshore locations where off-shift rest is taken offshore.
The innovation described in this paper, Night Fit, is based on solutions already applied at NASA and within the Dutch offshore industry. It is a light treatment method aimed specifically at the offshore shift work environments that optimizes work performance, health and safety by improving sleeping patterns. This has been shown to reduce workforce fatigue and thereby the risk of human errors. Special glasses and energy lights are used which, when applied to individuals on the basis of scientific understanding, has a positive effect on the secretion of sleep hormones and workforce energy levels. This will in turn support effective off-shift recovery and adaptation to shift changes -without the need for medication.
At a previous project onboard Allseas’ pipe laying vessel ‘Solitaire’ the crew reported feeling less fatigued, more alert, and more energized during their work. The number of shift workers with a sleep quality grade of eight or higher (on a ten-point scale, with ten being highest quality), increased by almost 300% (21% before the intervention, and 62% six months after). In addition, the number of shift workers reporting feeling "very fatigued" during their shift decreased by more than 75%.
These and similar findings indicate that when properly understood, applying simple interventions -specifically, managing light exposure and providing training on the principles of sleep hygiene- contributes to fatigue risk reduction and enhances the performance, health, and safety of shift workers.