Fatigue Risk Management Program in Aviation

Employee fatigue on the job is an insidious threat to safety and efficiency for a company or organization. Fatigue is not just an employee being tired.  The CDC says, about fatigue; “Fatigue has been broadly described as ‘a feeling of weariness, tiredness or lack of energy’.  In workplace settings, it is commonly associated with nonstandard schedules, such as night shift work and extended work hours, which disrupt or shorten sleep. Fatigue can also be associated with other workplace factors such as stress, physically or mentally demanding tasks, or working in hot environments. It can stem from a number of different factors and its effects extend beyond sleepiness. Fatigue can slow down reaction times, reduce attention or concentration, limit short-term memory and impair judgement’.

High levels of fatigue can affect any worker in any occupation or industry with serious consequences for worker safety and health. Learning the risks for fatigue-related events, identifying the sources of fatigue, and using fatigue management programs will help keep workers safe and healthy.

As an outcome of the Colgan flight 3407 accident on February 12, 2009, the FAA initiated a rulemaking effort to enhance the regulatory language addressing workplace fatigue.  It was long known that airline employees are especially susceptible to fatigue due to stressful environments, “back-of the clock” schedules and no allowance for sleep breaks (napping).  Along with the proscriptive language addressing flight and duty requirements, the rule (14 CFR par 117) also allows for a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) as an alternative regulatory approach to provide a means of monitoring and mitigating fatigue. Under an FRMS, a certificate holder develops processes that manage and mitigate fatigue and meet an equivalent level of safety as the regulatory proscriptive language. In other words, a FRMS is an alternative means of compliance to the regulatory requirements of part 117.

We can help you put together a FRMS and even help with employee scheduling to strike the right balance between minimizing workplace fatigue and maximizing workplace productivity.