Article: Preventing Fatigue and Human Error In Around-The-Clock
Martin Moore-Ede, M.D., Ph.D. - Circadian Technologies, Inc., William G. Sirois - Circadian Technologies, Inc. (SSA Journal Volume 10 Number 2 - Summer 1996 pp. 31 - 38 )
Fatigue, or more precisely impaired alertness, is a fundamental problem for all off-shift and around-the-clock operations. Biological clocks ("circadian pacemakers") automatically switch the human brain to low levels of arousal at night and induce sleepiness. As a result, employees are not well equipped to sustain alertness and optimal performance during nocturnal hours of work, or to gain adequate sleep during daytime hours of rest. Yet many critical and safety-sensitive jobs in the semiconductor industry rely on people to be at their best irrespective of the time of day or night, of how boring their jobs, and how unstimulating their work environments. Unless the problem of impaired alertness is directly addressed, it can add considerable risks and costs to 24-hour business operations. Fatigue-induced inaatentiveness, and failures of cognitive reasoning, cause many major accidents with resulting deaths, injuries and property damage. They also substantially undermine day-to-day quality, productivity and customer service levels. Chronic fatigue induced by continual sleep-deprivation negatively impacts employee morale and health, leading to absenteeism, deteriorated labor relations, and increased health care, recruitment and training costs. Fortunately, such risks of fatigue no longer have to be an accepted cost of doing business around-the-clock. Over the past ten years, there have been a number of scientific breakthroughs in human alertness technology, and extensive industrial experience has been developed in diagnosing the specific causes of fatigue in around-the-clock operations. Production plants can now systematically apply a comprehensive "tool-box" of technologies and physiology-based practices and procedures to upgrade their operating environments and greatly reduce the enormous risks and costs of employee fatigue and human error. Management can now operate their around-the-clock businesses with "alertness Assurance" - assurance that the risks of employee fatigue are in fact being minimized, and that documented financial benefits are being realized on the operation's bottom-line. This discussion will focus on the biological and technological causes of these problems, as well as the current state-of-the-art solutions.