Predictive Safety and Fatigue Management
Though the need for laws and regulations in general may not be easily denied, contention regarding the regulation of high-hazard industries tends to focus on regulations’ suitability, the degree to which they inhibit productivity, or even if they will have the intended result. Judy Greenwald’s article for Business Insurance presents how many in the US trucking industry argue that certain legislation designed to increase drivers’ safety and decrease their fatigue may actually exacerbate safety risks while also reducing productivity. Hours-of-service (HOS) rules limit drivers’ ability to travel between one and five o’clock in the morning, and many claim that these rules increase overall traffic during daylight hours and push drivers to haul the same amount of cargo despite the travel time restrictions.
Driver fatigue was cited as a factor in the terrible crash that injured comedian and television star Tracy Morgan and killed fellow comedian James McNair in 2014, when a Walmart truck rear-ended their vehicle while traffic was slowed in a construction zone. An article by Kevin Jones for Fleet Owner explains that the aftermath of this incident has led to political bickering about the continuance of existing legislation (which includes HOS rules) as well as the suitability of new legislation, all designed to prevent fatigued drivers from being on the roads.
But Christopher A. Hart, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), propounds that “Hours of service rules cannot address what drivers do on their own time,” as the driver of the Walmart truck, though coming to the end of a typical fourteen-hour shift, had gone without sleep for nearly thirty hours at the time of the crash.
Measuring compliance to safety regulations is how safety conditions in a workplace are often assessed, but as explored in a previous Predictive Safety article, such assessment cannot help management or internal auditors prepare for factors or atypical conditions that may result from personal and behavioral matters, like fatigue. Would a regulation have prevented the Walmart driver from beginning his shift already behind on proper rest? Maybe, but it would depend on the suitability, strength, and applicability of the regulation, and how well it is understood and followed. Such things are difficult to agree upon because of the human element, and so muddy the political discourse: differing perceptions, contrasting interpretations, lack of precedent, lack of foresight, biases, misinformation, and so on. So how can discussions about workplace safety move beyond political posturing and debates about regulations, and instead become constructive dialogue about practical solutions that reduce incidents?
Greenwald’s Business Insurance article describes some analytical solutions being utilized through the “Compliance, Safety, Accountability” program by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, like electronic logging, which “tracks factors including driver hours and rest periods.” Technological innovations and data analysis like this are key to improving workplace safety, but currently, such things may not be reaching their potential, being used only as ways to measure regulatory compliance rather than as tools for forecasting and prevention.
Rather than just assess compliance, Predictive Safety’s solutions can apply the cutting edge in data analytics for safety training and management to anticipate where problems and unsafe situations may occur. All high-hazard industries and commercial enterprises are becoming more aware fatigue management’s importance as part of their safety programs, and Predictive Safety’s tools and expertise can help companies develop practical solutions to increasing workplace safety while maintaining productivity, as account for and manage what regulations by nature cannot, like individual behavior that could create risk. Such solutions can shift the workplace’s safety culture from one of compliance to one of prevention.