Chapter 2: Responsibility for Managing Fatigue under an FRMS

Learning Outcomes

On completing this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Define specific responsibilities for both employers and employees for fatigue risk management.

Responsibility for Managing Fatigue under an FRMS

One of the key features of risk-based approaches to safety management is that all stakeholders share responsibility for minimizing risk and increasing safety. This approach works particularly well for managing fatigue. Management has a responsibility to create a work environment that minimizes fatigue-related risk, and employees have an obligation to ensure that time away from work is used appropriately. Spreading responsibility for fatigue risk management across the entire organization represents a significant shift in thinking.

In the past, responsibility for safety has generally been mandated by the regulator, who prescribed the level of safety management required and audited the organization to determine compliance. If safety was found to be poorly managed and resulted in an accident or incident, the organization could be held legally liable and face fines or a jail sentence. Thus, if an employee fell asleep at work and caused an accident, the organization could potentially be held responsible.

As our understanding of the hazards of fatigue has increased, we have begun to recognize the many different contributors to the risk. It is now accepted that the regulator, the organization, and employees each have certain responsibilities for fatigue risk management. The main responsibilities are summarized in the table below. In the context of an FRMS, both employers and employees have responsibilities for the management of fatigue. The employees' responsibility is first, to obtain sufficient sleep; second, to report when they have been unable to do so or feel at risk of making a fatigue-related error; and finally, to report any situation observed that may present fatigue-related risk. The employer has the responsibility of providing adequate sleep opportunity, mitigating fatigue-related risk, and taking action if an employee is not fit for work. Managers and supervisors are responsible for taking prompt, consistent, and appropriate action whenever they believe an employee is not fit for duty. The action(s) to be taken should be set out clearly and consistently in all documentation, including policies and procedures. The aim of all actions should be to maintain and promote safety.

Responsibilities for Fatigue Risk Management
Regulatory Responsibilities
Organizational Responsibilities Individual Responsibilities

Prescribe requirements/ framework for FRMS

Assess compliance

Audit non-compliance

Where appropriate, investigate accidents/incidents

Provide support:
- Compliance with legislation
- Policy development
- Training and education
- Error/incident reporting systems

Ensure work schedules provide adequate opportunity for rest and recovery between shifts

Assess specific work tasks for fatigue-related risk

Use time away from work appropriately to obtain adequate rest and recovery, and ensure fitness for work

Report any potential risks to manager if experiencing fatigue-related symptoms

Report any situation that may present fatigue related risk

Actions to be considered when an employee is considered potentially unfit for work may include:

  1. Assessing the employee using a symptom checklist as a guide to physical, mental, and emotional signs of fatigue (see Chapter 7).

  2. Providing closer regular supervision of the employee by peers, work team, or supervisor.

  3. Giving the employee lower-risk tasks.

  4. Providing the employee with an opportunity to rest/nap and to be reassessed within a determined time frame.

  5. Discussing with the employee what the employee thinks were factors in being unable to maintain fitness for work.

  6. Determining whether prescription medication, alcohol, or drugs may be involved or have contributed to the situation.

  7. Determining whether a similar set of circumstances is likely to recur, and if so, how could it be satisfactorily addressed by either the employee and/or manager for a mutually acceptable outcome.

  8. Providing alternative transport home, if warranted.

  9. Assisting the employee to access support and assistance where available (e.g., employee assistance programs).

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are confidential services funded by companies and provided to any employee who may require assistance for personal, work, and/or family-related concerns or problems. In some organizations, the service is extended to immediate family members (i.e., current spouse and children). Referrals can be made by an employee, supervisor, manager, or medical officer. Service providers can be internal or external to the organization with services varying in scope, range, and intensity.

- Detail who is responsible for each FRMS component within your organization.

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