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Fatigue on the Railway - Early RSSB Research

Our work has fundamentally changed the industry’s understanding of fatigue management. Human factors research into fatigue and shift work conducted between 2003 and 2010 remains relevant today and continues to inform our understanding of how to manage fatigue risk.

The research addressed a recommendation from the inquiry into the train crash at Southall in 1997 which stated, 'current rules governing drivers' hours should be reviewed in light of current research into human behaviour.' The rules at that time were based on fixed limits to working hours, known as Hidden Limits, which were adopted after the train crash at Clapham Junction. Although these limits offered some protection against fatigue, we now understand that this was not adequate.

The research looked into good practices in designing working patterns, covering a wide range of factors, including shift duration, continuous driving time, hours worked per week, consecutive shifts, shift variability, rest between shifts and rest days. It made recommendations about monitoring fatigue, adopting fatigue countermeasures such as napping, health monitoring, education and training related to shift work and coping strategies.

Based on these studies, we produced the guidance document on Managing Fatigue – A Good Practice Guide. Our guidance highlights the safety and performance benefits of adopting Fatigue Risk Management Systems tailored to suit operations of varying size and scope of operations. By adopting a risk management approach, organisations can monitor and control the risk associated with fatigue on a continuous basis for the benefit of individuals, the company and the rail industry as a whole.

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