Accident Investigation – Analyse Human Factor & Fatigue Elements & Recommend Mitigation Measures

In shift work environments human error attributed to fatigue and causing inattentiveness and drowsiness is emerging as a significant cause of industrial accidents.

Shift work poses exceptional challenges to shift worker performance due to sleep loss and circadian cycle disruption. This can lead to chronic fatigue causing:

  • Degraded job performance contributing to errors/accidents (Folkard, 1979)
  • Involuntary on-duty sleep episodes (microsleeps) regardless of pay, motivation or professionalism (Broughton & Ogilvie, 1992)
  • Impaired decisions, reaction time, judgment and perception equivalent to alcohol impairment. Fatigue is four times more likely to be a factor in workplace impairment than alcohol (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, House of Representatives Report, 2000)
  • Attitude of indifference to, or lack of recognition of, danger (Dinges, 1990)
  • Fixation on particular information even while ignoring more important information (Horne, 1978)

In work environments requiring sustained vigilance and attentiveness, accident and error levels increase with fatigue levels (Dinges, 1989, 1992).

Work tasks most susceptible to fatigue effects include those involving high vigilance, routine and monotonous tasks. Consequently, it is not surprising that the poorest job performance and highest rate of industrial accidents occurs in shift work populations (Rosekind et al, 1993).

Yet, in accident investigations the role of human factors error and fatigue may be overlooked for a number of reasons:

  1. Compared to technical/hardware failures or substances impairment, assessing the role of human factors and fatigue is much more indirect
  2. The role of fatigue may not be recognised by accident investigators, trained in technical matters
  3. Cultural denial of fatigue may result in employee reluctance to admit fatigue related inattentiveness
  4. An employee involved in an accident may not recognise or recall a momentary inattentiveness or a microsleep event.

As the work environment, including shift work and working hours, can contribute to errors and accidents, systematically assessing human factor and fatigue issues, will assist in confirming the extent of their impact. This will help prevent future occurrences.

We offer comprehensive human factor and fatigue investigation services including:

I. Independent, Neutral & Objective Accident Investigation

Ensuring human factor issues are systematically reviewed, we apply specialised human factor, fatigue and shift work consulting expertise. We assess interaction of shift work schedules, lifestyle, work conditions, work environment, organisational policies and practices on alertness, attentiveness, concentration and performance to determine any role of human factor error and/or fatigue.

We prepare briefings, reports and recommendations to address human factor and fatigue risk to advance safety.

II. Proactive/Accident Preventative Review of Organisation’s
     Accident/Incident Investigation Process

We assess how the investigative process reviews and captures human factor and fatigue indicators and how accident investigation process and data systems record and track fatigue and identify risks to advance safety.

We deliver customised recommendations reflecting your needs to help enhance investigative tools, processes and records to identify and monitor fatigue risk.

III. Training of Accident Investigators in Shift Work, Work Design Fatigue Causes,
       Consequences & Processes to Systematically Investigate Fatigue Risk

Enhancing investigators’ capabilities to assess the role of fatigue in an accident is central to managing fatigue risk and thereby advancing safety.

Training persons conducting accident investigations and post-accident analysis in the interaction of work conditions on human factor and fatigue risks/causes and their manifestations, signs and consequences, will ensure these issues are properly assessed. This can help avert reoccurrences through design and adoption of proactive, preventative policies and work design.

Our training will ensure investigators’ capabilities and investigative processes are developed to ensure human factor issues are thoroughly and systematically researched in the enquiry covering:

  • Nature of alertness
  • Causes of shift work fatigue
  • Challenges of shift work on alertness, health and social life
  • Impact of fatigue on attentiveness, vigilance and safety & error/accident risk
  • Recognising fatigue indicators
  • Application of empirically based investigative techniques and processes

Our accident investigation and training services will help you identify and confirm the impact of fatigue on performance and safety. This can help guide policies, practices and work conditions and shift work design, incorporating an understanding of human performance influences and creation of human centred management approach to advance safety.