Managing Fatigue Risk: Planning and Rostering

Work patterns can cause fatigue, which can lead to accidents and incidents, physical and mental health problems. Fatigue can affect people’s lives and livelihoods. Planners and rosterers have a critical role in managing fatigue. If working patterns are designed well, fatigue does not build up to dangerous levels. This is good for safety at work, and staff health and wellbeing.


How can I help manage fatigue risk?

You can help by taking fatigue into account when planning and rostering. This is about providing enough opportunity for adequate breaks during shifts, and adequate rest periods between shifts to minimise fatigue risk.

Aside from working hours, the build-up of fatigue depends also on what the worker's task is, their working environment and the number and quality of breaks. Because these things vary so widely across the industry, from infrastructure workers, to train drivers, to office staff, one-size-fits-all working time limits would not successfully protect everyone on the railway from fatigue. Instead, each company needs to address fatigue issues by thinking about its own activities and working out what is safe and healthy for their own staff.



Anybody that's involved in planning and rostering has a responsibility in managing fatigue:

  • Learn about alertness and fatigue, what causes fatigue and what its effects are on people. Explore the Fatigue and you section of our website.
  • Understand the shift design features that are known to cause fatigue, which ones you control and which ones you influence.
  • Understand what your company's fatigue management policies and trades union agreements say about how you should consider fatigue during planning and rostering, and find the best way to work together to minimise fatigue.
  • When planning, take into account your company's policies, agreements and the ORR fatigue factors to recommend or ensure that the plan allows rosterers, line managers and supervisors to design fatigue-friendly rosters and implement fatigue controls, taking account of circumstances on the day.
  • Roster working patterns in line with your company's policies and agreements, and make every attempt to keep fatigue risk as low as possible. Make sure the roster:
    • Allows line managers and supervisors to manage fatigue taking account of circumstances on the day.
    • Allows front line staff to take adequate rest and breaks, with adequate provision for food, drinks and comfort facilities.
    • Takes into account staff characteristics that can impact on fatigue (eg people inexperienced in a task, people with health problems, etc)
  • Highlight the need for additional risk controls (eg hotels, safe transport, etc) where the roster alone does not adequately control fatigue risk.
  • Keep records.
  • Provide information to highlight fatigue issues, and help senior/line managers track how fatigue is being controlled through planning and rostering
  • When an incident occurs, or a fatigue concern is raised by a staff member or their representatives, provide information on fatigue risk from working patterns to the review or investigation process. Provide information on both their planned shift pattern and the one they actually worked, including any rest day working and recent overtime worked.

If your company uses tools to assess fatigue risk in working patterns

Some companies use tools which predict the risk of fatigue from a working pattern. The Health and Safety Executive's Fatigue and Risk Index is one of these tools, but there are others. To find out more about these tools, to understand how to use them and what their outputs mean, read our guidance (requires member login). Beware that these tools make assumptions which can be wrong. You should not over-rely on the outputs they give, instead, you should:

  1. Design working patterns to reduce the impact of fatiguing factors.
  2. Run the working patterns through the bio-mathematical model and make adjustments to reduce fatigue as far as you reasonably can - this also helps spot any predicted peaks in fatigue which you may need to reduce.
  3. Work with others in your company (eg crew, platform staff, line managers) and trades unions to get feedback on how fatiguing the shift pattern was.
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