Fatigue Management can make a tremendous difference in a company’s ability to keep its employees safe. Even though it’s a relatively new science, silos of technology have already been defined and can be confusing to someone who doesn’t know what the options are. Whereas consulting services are often located through personal referral and word of mouth and may be customized for the client, the right technology for the job can be difficult for a newcomer to understand and compare.
At Predictive Safety, we try to educate companies on what their options are so that they can make the right choices. When we explain the choices, we generally describe fatigue management technology in 3 categories: Point-of-Failure Systems, Real-Time Detection, and Predictive Systems.
A Point-of-Failure system is one in which fatigue impairment is detected, as the term describes, at the point of failure, or where the brain more or less stops functioning safely. This is when cameras or hats catch people nodding off in micro-sleeps, or experiencing pupil dilation, and in some cases, begin exhibiting altered EEG brain waves. Even vehicle driving behavior can be monitored, such as a change in braking or steering which indicates a change in alertness.
We feel that this type of detection is an important fail-safe, especially when fatigued drivers are operating expensive assets or are in a public system where fatigue can be deadly.
But when an employee is experiencing micro-sleeps, fatigue has already been in play for two to three hours. While you want to take the most precaution in the most critical situations, additional technologies can prevent it from getting that far in the first place.
Sometimes employees begin work in an already exhausted or distressed condition but no one knows about it. It’s a dangerous way to start a shift or proceed on a critical task where assumptions are being made about an employee’s alertness level. That’s when the second type of technology, real-time detection, can be of help.
With real-time detection, supervisors have the most options available to move employees around, delay critical tasks, or help an employee plan breaks so that the risk is mitigated. Because real-time detection is performance-based, it can also identify individuals who are struggling with alertness for other reasons, not just fatigue. Illness, drug or alcohol use and even severe emotional distress can pose the same safety risk and will show up in a real-time performance assessment.
Additionally, predictive fatigue management systems contain a platform that can assess and calculate impending fatigue in an upcoming shift.
Predictive systems can arrive at a very accurate assessment of what kind of fatigue the employee will most likely face during that shift and when it’s going to happen – in advance. This is made possible by using an employee’s actual work history, not just the time they were scheduled to work, and by adding in data points such as commute time, job risk profile, and real-time alertness. That allows for the most options of all. When a supervisor and an employee can see a prediction of fatigue in the shift and know when it’s going to become severe, they can plan for it and reduce accidents significantly.
Depending on the work environment, some or all of these three technologies can be used. Understanding the benefit of each type and where it intervenes can help companies spend their resources where they can have the most impact. Technology has made tremendous progress in detecting anomalies in human health and behavior, and companies don’t have to be in the dark about what is available to make their work environments safer.
Choosing a fatigue management solution can be a complex process. Lean on our years of experience to help you decide what is best for your company.