Fatigue ManagementScheduling & Workforce Management

How Automated Employee Scheduling Helps Nuclear’s Fatigue Problem

Nuclear Plant With Four Silos

Employee fatigue is more than just that feeling of lethargy or lack of motivation that usually rolls in around 2:00 PM. It can create or exacerbate hazardous working conditions, while recurring fatigue can contribute to prolonged health problems like sleep disorders or an increased risk of heart disease.

A person becomes slower, more error-prone, and less productive, increasing their risk of an accident. This is especially dangerous for drivers; the National Transportation Safety Board estimates that fatigue is a contributing factor in 20% of their investigations.

What is Fatigue in the Workplace?

Fatigue is often due to strenuous working conditions, extended hours, or an irregular work schedule. For hourly workers in the nuclearoil and gas industries, they are susceptible to a healthy dose of all three—along with harsh environmental conditions. Drivers alone in the oil and gas industry are 8.5 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident than those who work in other industries. That’s probably because fatigue is one of the most prevalent symptoms in the oil and gas workforce, affecting 54% of individuals.

With the majority of the workforce reporting that they have worked while feeling drowsy around such complicated equipment, it’s no wonder the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict regulations in place to prevent worker fatigue.

What is Fatigue Management?

Fatigue Management at its core is a compliance rule framework that encompasses audit reports. The goal is to ensure that your complex fatigue rules—union, state, or federal—don’t get violated. In the event that they do, the right fatigue management strategy will help in documenting the appropriate sign off according to your company policies.

To monitor the number of hours your employees are working to prevent burnout, fatigue management needs to be embedded in your scheduling process. And it only works if your scheduling process is automated. Here’s why.

Workforce Protections Complicate Scheduling

Combatting labor fatigue is critical for the safety of your employees. But updated labor laws that directly impact scheduling will have you scrambling to avoid fines and grievances if you aren’t aware of them—or if you cannot ensure that your schedules adhere to them due to lack of visibility.

To complicate matters, employee laws vary state by state. So, let’s use a specific example: the fatigue rules laid out by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The NRC limits the duty hours of workers at nuclear facilities. In any 24-hour period, workers cannot exceed 16 hours; individuals who are working 8-hour shift schedules are entitled to at least 1 day off per week, averaged over every 6-week evaluation period.

The NRC also requires certain nuclear facilities to have fitness-for-duty programs to “provide reasonable assurance that nuclear facility personnel are trustworthy, will perform their tasks in a reliable manner, are not under the influence of any substance, legal or illegal, that may impair their ability to perform their duties, and are not mentally or physically impaired from any cause that can adversely affect their ability to safely and competently perform”. The specific requirements vary from facility to facility, but NRC protocols typically entail work hour limits, a minimum number of break hours between shifts, and fatigue assessments.

Considering the nuclear sector has such high demand and a shortage of workers, this dichotomy can make it difficult to stay compliant when a schedule is being created. The plants are scrambling to get jobs done and to hit production targets, so it’s fair to say that it’s relatively easy for employees to become overworked.

Improve Workforce Management With Indeavor's Scheduling Software

Adhere to Labor Laws With Indeavor

You can help adhere to even the most recent laws with automated scheduling.

If your organization is still relying on paper-based scheduling, it’s easy to accidentally assign an employee too many hours or to schedule a person’s shifts too close together. Besides putting the company at compliance risk for violating the fitness-for-duty program or other OSHA violations, you are also putting that employee at risk of drowsiness, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Having an automated process in place greatly reduces such human error scheduling risk and ensures schedule fairness.

Learn more or request a demo here.

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