Fatigue and its Contribution to Railway Incidents

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report on the 2010 uncontrolled freight train run-back incident at Shap included a recommendation to ‘implement measures to improve the quality and quantity of available data relating to fatigue-related railway accidents and incidents’. In response, we conducted a review of 246 investigation reports into high-risk rail incidents. The findings have provided new insights into the prevalence of fatigue in rail incidents and have established a good basis for fatigue analysis.


Our review of investigation reports into high-risk rail incidents found that 21% of the reports identified fatigue as a factor. It also showed that managing working hours alone will not solve the problem. According to the investigation reports, the person's home life contributed to fatigue in 40% of the incidents. This means that staff and companies both have a role in managing fatigue.

As an industry, it is important we continue to investigate incidents and record and share data to identify where fatigue has been a contributing factor. This data has a crucial role to play in informing Fatigue Risk Management Systems (FRMS) that aim to minimise fatigue experienced by staff. However, determining the role of fatigue in incidents remains a challenge since there is no clear-cut answer or objective measure. By talking to staff involved, understanding their roster patterns and other fatigue inducing factors, investigators make judgements about the role of fatigue in incidents.

Our fatigue guidance for investigators can help investigators to have confidence in making these judgements. The rail industry must also create and maintain a culture where staff are able to describe fatigue-related factors during investigations, safe in the knowledge that they will be treated fairly, and our guidance on creating and maintaining a fair culture is designed to help with this challenge.

Banner image owned and sourced from: RAIB
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