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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Wake Up Call for Fatigued Seafarers

September 9, 2004

A wake up call for fatigued seafarers Recent research by the New Zealand Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) has shown fatigue at sea to be of concern, with half of those seafarers surveyed reporting being fatigued on at least on one of their last five trips. Fatigue has also been a causal factor in several recent vessel groundings.

An MSA-led working group is now working with the industry to provide guidelines and policy for owners, operators and employees to better manage fatigue.

Each commercial maritime sector is being tackled one-by-one, and the fishing industry is first up.

The guidelines will include practical methods for managing fatigue, and will be used as a basis for fatigue management training and education.

MSA manager of strategic analysis and planning Sharyn Forsyth is coordinating the working group which is developing guidelines for the fishing industry.

She says there's no doubt fatigue impacts on how effectively you carry out your work, and how you respond when things go wrong. It's also a clear contributing causal factor in many MSA accident investigations.

“There's little point in establishing detailed rules around sleep as it's difficult to make a rule that fits every situation. So we want to give the industry guidelines with useful and practical tips for managing fatigue, which will help encourage a change in behaviour,” she said.

The working group, which has taken on the task of establishing the guidelines, is a sub-group of FishSAFE which is the MSA-convened fishing industry safety and heath advisory group. FishSAFE is made up of representatives of a wide cross-section of the commercial fishing industry, ACC and the Ministry of Fisheries.

Ms Forsyth says the working group includes industry representatives who know what the issues are for fishermen, so the guidelines will be clear and useful.

“The development and implementation of practical fatigue management guidelines is an important step to managing fatigue issues within the fishing industry.

“Once the guidelines are in place, we'll also be working with the Seafood Industry Training Organisation to provide ongoing support, education and training,” she said.

The draft guidelines are expected to be available for industry consultation in April 2005.

Everyone must take responsibility for fatigue

Owners, skippers and crew all have clear and serious responsibilities to manage and identify fatigue under the Maritime Transport Act 1994, and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.


are required to have a systematic approach to identifying fatigue-related issues and how to eliminate or minimise their impacts.


are required to take all practicable steps so they do not become unsafe through fatigue, to themselves and others in the workplace.


are required to provide adequate resources and shore-based support to enable others to meet their responsibilities, under the New Zealand Safe Ship Management Code.

Fatigue is a hazard under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. If fatigue is considered an issue on your vessel, the MSA can require the owner to take action to resolve any fatigue problems identified. The MSA can use a variety of enforcement options, including prosecution.

MSA enforcement Fatigue is a hazard under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. If fatigue is considered an issue on your vessel, the MSA can require the owner to take action to resolve any fatigue problems identified. The MSA can use a variety of enforcement options, including prosecution.

Not enough sleep … Unsurprisingly, ninety five percent of fatigue results from not enough sleep.

Fatigue can affect us all. We have to sleep. And any sleep not taken builds up until the urge to sleep becomes uncontrollable.

So missing an hour or two of sleep per night for a small number of nights can be as sleep inducing as working long hours at a stretch without sleep.

We have a circadian rhythm with the desire to sleep strongest between 3am-5am. There is also a post-lunch dip, when sleep comes easily. The circadian rhythm also wakes people up, particularly in the morning and early evening. Sleep is difficult at those times.

We also know that light and noise – especially of other people – make sleeping difficult, especially if outside normal sleep hours.

Finally, we can't train ourselves to get by on less sleep and continue to perform well. Poor work practices and mistakes are more likely which affects both our safety and efficiency.

Avoiding fatigue at work The first step to avoiding fatigue at work is to recognise there is a problem.

“Often, people only see fatigue in those they work closely with, so owners of vessels are more likely to be working closely with the skipper and not be aware of how fatigued the crew are,” says MSA Human Factors Analyst Wayne Perkins. “Similarly, skippers and officers who work largely away from crew will be less likely to see the signs of fatigue.”

“The second step is to get all those who work on board together to discuss fatigue and how it is affected by the work environment. This should happen away from the work environment and it works best if partners are invited to participate. Have an open attitude to getting everyone's issues on the table.”

Mr Perkins says it's important to recognise that everyone can become trapped into work patterns because they are always done that way. Solutions can be developed by brainstorming to think of new ways to do the job.

The MSA is currently producing a useful and practical guide on fatigue management for owners, operators and employees. This will be available early next year.

Concentrated campaign on watchkeeping The Maritime Safety Authority is carrying out a concentrated campaign from now until the end of the year to check that vessel's safety management systems have considered safe watchkeeping procedures including fatigue management.

This campaign has arisen as a result of the high number of recent groundings where poor watchkeeping has been a key cause.

MSA will concentrate on Maritime Rule 31b Section 5 (watchkeeping) and 31c Section 4 (watchkeeping). These rules include fitness for duty, fatigue, and watchkeeping standards.

MSA research on fatigue

In 2003, MSA commissioned independent research to be carried out to better understand the incidence of fatigue among seafarers. A summary of the research findings is available here.

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