Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Overcoming Fatigue - Will Power or Rest?

Master of Towing Vessel Association Forum has a post "6 & 6 No Thanks" which discusses the U.S. Coast Guard's Crew Endurance Management.

The first time I recall any discussion about fatigue was in 1991. I was second mate on a container ship and the captain asked me if I was tired. I though he was joking. We were running coast wise and I was standing the mid-watch (00-04 and 12-16) plus getting called out for mooring operations and keeping up with the chart work, of course I was tired.

The prevailing attitude at the time was if you were tired you had better buck up and do your job. From a Cardiff research report (pdf)

"Houtman suggest that aside from reporting inconsistencies the act of actually admitting to fatigue may be sufficiently derided so as to make seafarers’ unlikely to report their experience."
In understanding how such cultural notions might impact upon accident reporting a quote from Caldwell (2003), in reference to the aviation industry, perhaps best describes the attitudinal climate:
"The root of the problem is that the hard-charging, success-orientated people who make up the modern industrialized community and the world’s military forces have yet to be convinced that human fatigue is a problem in terms of safety, health, efficiency, and productivity; that fatigue stems from physiological factors that cannot be negated by willpower, financial incentives, or other motivators (p.11/12)

I became convinced that fatigue was a serious risk factor and not something that could be mitigated by will power while taking a medical class to get my MED PIC endorsement.

Since then I have implemented measures to reduce fatigue on three different ships. These measures were met with a great deal of skepticism. The argument was first, that it was not necessary and second, that it was impossible to comply with the requirements given the ships schedule.

I am convinced that risk due to fatigue can be substantial reduced but it requires understanding that it is in fact a problem and the willingness to be creative in search of solutions.


STCW rest requirements are:

Section A-VIII/l of the STCW Code states that watchkeeping personnel (i.e., all persons assigned duty as officers in charge of a watch, or as rating forming part of a watch) shall be provided a minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24-hour period. The period of rest may be divided into two periods, one of which must be at least 6 hours. Also, the watch schedule is to be posted where it is easily accessible.

The basic rest-period rule of section A/VIII/l applies except in an emergency or a drill or "in other overriding operational conditions." Furthermore, the 10 hours of rest may be reduced to a single period of 6 hours for up to two days, as long as the seafarer concerned is provided with at least 70 hours of rest each seven day period.

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