Addressing Fatigue by Practicing What We Preach

By Debbie Hersman

After more than 40 years of accident investigation, we know the insidious role fatigue plays in transportation accidents. Fatigue affects all aspect of human performance — it reduces reaction time, impairs judgment, degrades memory, and interferes with communication.

The NTSB has long been an advocate for better fatigue management throughout the transportation industry.  We’ve issued almost 200 fatigue-related safety recommendations. Fatigue has been on our Most Wanted List since 1990; addressing human fatigue is on the new Most Wanted List that we announced on June 23.

We decided it was time to practice what we preach. I am pleased to tell you last month we announced a new Fatigue Management Program for the entire agency.  The goal is to enhance job performance, but more importantly, to reduce safety-related risks for our employees on-the-job.

The intent of this program is not to establish specific duty time limits; rather, it will provide guidance that employees need to evaluate whether they might be at risk of impairment due to fatigue, and whether strategies are available to help mitigate this risk.

In the coming months, every employee, myself included, will complete a basic fatigue training course.  Education is the first step to address job-related fatigue.  Knowledgeable employees are more likely to embrace change if they understand and appreciate the effect of fatigue on their work and in their lives.

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