Fatigue Management Programs, Systems and Plans:  Is there a difference? Part I

Part I: Fatigue Management Programs

There are a number of terms being used to describe sets of strategies and processes designed to manage extant (current) fatigue, the risk of future fatigue and fatigue related risks.  Currently, there are differences in the strategies and processes that justify the use of different terms.  However, these terms are beginning to be used interchangeably by regulators, associations, consultants, trainers and others working in the area of fatigue management.  Using terms interchangeably to describe different strategies and processes can cause confusion for those attempting to understand the approach to managing fatigue they are required to follow.  To reduce the confusion, we will provide a brief overview, in three parts, of how the most popular terms are being used today.  Note that, from a safety, health and productivity perspective, fatigue management is a relatively novel area and terms are still being developed. This means that the use of these terms will likely evolve quickly over the next few years such that the individual terms may take on very different meanings or they may become synonymous.

planning meeting

Fatigue Management Program

A Fatigue management program is similar to other health and safety programs except that its purpose is to expressly manage fatigue rather than general health and safety risks.  The document detailing the fatigue management program usually outlines the purpose of the program, defines roles and responsibilities, outlines various strategies to prevent future fatigue, reduce the effects of extant fatigue and reduce the risks of negative outcomes associated with fatigue.  The requirements of a fatigue management program are generally not overseen by regulators but may be recommended by influential and industry specific associations.

Without being under regulatory control, fatigue management programs can be quite different between industries and across organizations within the same industry.  For example, some programs include scheduling practices as a fatigue management strategy, training programs on sleep health to prevent fatigue as well as a combination of policies and procedures, whereas other fatigue management programs may not.

For a basic idea of what you should consider including in your fatigue management program, have a look at Energy Safety Canada’s Fatigue Risk Management Program development guide: https://www.energysafetycanada.com/Attachments/DownloadResource?attachmentGuid=bc659a0f-a58c-4445-8c56-a7205590dbde&open=True

Stay tuned for Part II where we will contrast a fatigue management program to a fatigue risk management system (FRMS).