Fatigue risk management: A planner speaks his mind

<!–Fatigue risk management–>Fatigue risk management is an idea whose time has come. Or is it? As I began my presentation on fatigue risk management at the World ATM Congress in Madrid, I asked how many were actively managing the risk of fatigue. There were very few hands in the air.

I can’t say I was surprised. Scheduling employees poses an extremely complex planning puzzle. Adding fatigue risk management to the mix is enough to make most planners throw in the towel.

I know I would if I were a planner. In fact this is what I’d say…

. . . . . . .

You want me to do what?!

Don’t get me wrong. Fatigue risk management principles make perfect sense. In fact I’d be more than happy to incorporate them in the great schedules I create if only I knew what a great schedule looks like.

Fact is, I don’t. Yes, you heard me. I don’t know what a great schedule looks like. I’m still struggling to create feasible ones – and that’s not because I’m dim. Scheduling is incredibly complex, and now you say there are going to be more rules for me to juggle? You must be joking.

You’re not? Well then take a guess at the answers to the following questions:

  • Am I struggling just to create rosters that incorporate existing rules, regulations and constraints? (N.B. This doesn’t even address the million dollar question of whether the rosters help your organization achieve its business goals.)

  • Are disruptions muddled through rather than managed? (Hint: Consider how much time I have to create a new schedule before the dirt hits the fan.)

  • Is it difficult to foresee the consequence of allowing shift swaps or granting leave? (You bet it is. I run the risk of creating capacity shortfalls every time I approve leave.)

If you want me to start considering circadian rhythms, how age affects concentration spans, which shift patterns are less fatiguing than others, and just how tiring a particular task is, you’ll have to do more than give me yet another list of rules and constraints. I need help. Now.

. . . . . . .

The fact is that building fatigue-minimizing strategies into rosters is more than fatiguing for planners: in most cases it’s humanly impossible.

To implement fatigue risk management principles, planners need the support of an intelligent planning system that captures all the relevant rules and applies them correctly. Such a system should enable planners to track fatigue-related metrics even as they plan, and help them respond swiftly and effectively to violations.

It should:

  • Give planners immediate insight into how the shifts they create or the tasks they assign affect the risk of fatigue

    • Ensure that last minute changes to schedules incorporate rest and break rules that reduce fatigue

  • Provide instant alerts when employee preferences or requests increase the risk of fatigue

And the planners? What would they do? They would finally be able to focus on what’s really important to your organization: achieving the best balance among the competing goals of efficiency, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and, of course, fatigue risk management.

All the evidence points to a future where schedules will be assigned fatigue risk ratings. Are you – and, most importantly, your planners – ready for it?

How fair is your employee scheduling system anyway?