Fitness for Duty Decision Aids (Fatigue)

Workers and their managers share responsibility for ensuring that staff are fit for duty and will be safe to work for their entire shift. Can tools such as mobile apps and wearable devices help the rail industry make decisions of this kind?


It is incredibly difficult to predict how fatigued a person might be in the future, based on how they look or feel now. When safety critical workers and their managers are making decisions about their fitness for duty, they are in danger of underestimating the risk of them becoming tired, and the effect that this might have on their performance.

There are at least 80 tools on the market that have the potential to support an assessment of fatigue and provide person-specific results. Some of these are used in other industries such as aviation. As part of a review of these - including handheld tools, websites, mobile apps and wearable devices - we found that the solutions available on the market went some way towards helping with fitness for duty decisions, but none of them were able to meet rail industry needs.

Given the importance of managing fatigue risk and industry interest in a decision-support tool, we are planning to compare how sensitive the different mathematical models that sit behind these tools are to different fatiguing factors, and use our findings to build a tool that is suitable for a rail industry setting. The information we gathered during the review of existing tools will be used as part of this process.

Good fitness for duty decisions aren't just about the outputs of a tool. Managers and staff, for example, need to respond appropriately to the tool's outputs, but these outputs should not replace a person's own judgement around their fitness-for-duty. We will be taking into account such cultural and behavioural considerations that were identified through close engagement with rail industry staff in the initial research.

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