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The Rail Industry Fatigue Survey

Fatigue management is no longer about sticking to the Hidden Limits (working hour prescriptions defined after the 1988 Clapham Junction accident). It is about understanding the risks and putting in place risk controls (including controls on working hours).  It's about measuring and evaluating how well those controls are working. And this means collecting data to learn from operational experience.

Accident and incident data are key sources for knowing how to manage any safety issue. When it comes to fatigue, we know there are challenges around identifying whether fatigue was present in an incident, and whether it was a contributing factor. This type of data is also reactive: you understand the issues after accidents or incidents have happened. One way we can be more proactive is by surveying staff to understand their experiences of fatigue and how well the company’s fatigue risk controls are working. This is exactly what we did in 2018. Working with colleagues across our industry, we surveyed staff from 25 companies and received 7,807 responses. This is by far the largest collaborative exercise of this kind that we are aware of, and it's a clear sign that the rail industry’s approach to managing fatigue is maturing.


 
The results of the survey give us a baseline measure of fatigue for the GB rail industry. For most of these measures, we are not aware of similar data from other industries to compare the results to, so it is difficult to know whether the rail industry is doing better or worse than other industries. If the survey is run again, it will be possible to compare the results against this year’s data, to see which measures have improved and which have not.
 
There are two key ways in which the findings from this survey are being addressed. Firstly, the rail passenger, freight, and infrastructure sector fatigue working groups have already begun to identify and prioritise work that they should collaborate on. Secondly, each company which took part in the survey will use the analysis of its own data to plan improvements to its approaches to managing fatigue. They may want to compare their results to data from their sector as a whole, to understand how well they are doing on a range of measures, and use these insights to develop mitigations.
 
The report below is for RSSB members only.  It gives an industry-wide overview of the data, based on all the data collected. This provides new insights into fatigue as an issue in the rail industry, and points to areas where more detailed investigation will be needed to understand whether the results indicate a safety concern.

 

Banner image: Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

 

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