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Fatigue management

By |  February 28, 2014

Attention to detail, including managing fatigue, goes a long way in reducing hazards at aggregate operations.

Operator fatigue creates a host of potential problems for an aggregates operation. From safety concerns to lost production, the effects can be damaging, so it’s wise for producers to have a fatigue-management system in place. In May of last year, Caterpillar Global Mining announced an alliance agreement with Seeing Machines Ltd. to deliver and support operator fatigue monitoring technology through Caterpillar dealers.

Fatigue at aggregate operations and other worksites is a leading cause of injuries. Photo:

Seeing Machines, headquartered in Canberra, Australia, has developed fatigue-monitoring systems using patented, cutting-edge, eye-tracking technology to detect operator fatigue and distraction, and to alert the mine controller and the machine operator.

The alliance with Seeing Machines is a natural progression of Caterpillar Global Mining’s work to mitigate fatigue risks in mining activities. Caterpillar continues to raise awareness and industry understanding of the implications of 24/7 shift work on equipment operator performance, distraction and fatigue through industry training programs such as “Managing a Mining Lifestyle,” and through partnerships with industry organizations and research universities.

Managing a mining lifestyle
One out of five people in the world currently works hours that fall outside the traditional workday. Those who have long hours, work nights or maintain irregular shifts face different challenges than day workers. Shift work affects sleep, alertness, health, and family and social lives.

Human alertness has a daily rhythm – measurably higher during the day and lower during the night. People also tend to get drowsy after lunch. It’s important to be aware of and manage these challenges.

In another collaboration, Caterpillar worked with Circadian Technologies Inc., an international firm that helps companies manage shift-work and extended hours, to develop a DVD to help machine operators and their families better cope with the lifestyle required of those in the mining industry.

The video provides practical solutions for easing the adjustment and day-to-day challenges associated with mining lifestyles. The video serves as a powerful tool for improving the physical and psychological well being of heavy equipment operators – increasing safety, morale and performance.

Fatigue avoidance
Fatigue is one of the leading causes of injury at the workplace and at home. Operating mobile equipment while fatigued can be fatal to you and others and is as dangerous as operating while impaired owing to drugs and alcohol. Performing work duties while fatigued can lead to:

■ Getting injured from equipment pinch-points, or being hit by mobile equipment from not paying attention to the work environment.

■ Poor understanding of operating instructions.

■ Erroneous readings of process controls and gauges.

■ Poor response time to emergency incidents and near misses.

■ Short cuts or poor work performance owing to not enough energy to do the job correctly.

■ Inability to handle multiple tasks at the same time.

Listed below are tips and pointers to help ensure you arrive at the workplace alert every day and ready to work.

■ Periodically rotate jobs – keep it fresh. Set up a job rotation schedule if the work is mundane and not stimulating.

■ Limit coffee and artificial stimulants. Ingesting these stimulants throws off the body’s natural ability to stay alert and focused.

■ Eat a balanced diet and drink enough fluids to stay hydrated, ensuring a fair balance of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins.

■ Sleep a minimum of seven hours per day and strive for work/life balance, allowing adequate time to re-charge for the next workday.

■ Exercise and stretch your muscles each morning before starting work. This allows for better blood flow, which supplies oxygen.

■ Drink plenty of water, particularly in hot working environments.

Building a safety culture
Safety culture can be thought of as the values, beliefs, perceptions and normal behaviors that are shared by employees. Whether it is intentional or not, every organization has a safety culture. The questions are whether the safety culture is what we want it to be and what can we do to change it. In a positive safety culture:

■ Communication is open at all levels of the organization and feedback is seen as vital to improving safety processes.

■ Individuals at all levels focus on what can be done to prevent injuries or illnesses.

■ There is a commitment to safety regardless of all other concerns in the business.

■ People and their well-being are valued. The focus is on protecting people, not the bottom line.

■ All personnel, especially senior managers, demonstrate their commitment to safety by following all safety processes and procedures, just as they instruct their employees to do.

In a negative safety culture:
■ Communication is not open at all levels. Employees do not openly communicate with upper management.

■ Safety rules are used to discipline employees.

■ Management may not follow safety rules (for example, not wearing hearing protection or other personal protective equipment, as they are supposed to).

■ Production demands require less focus on safety.

■ Management’s concern is not for the well being of the employees, but rather for a good safety “record.”

Near misses
Near misses are leading indicators in the workplace that must be identified and investigated to reduce overall incidents. Near-miss incidents are situations that did not result in personal injury or property damage but had the potential to do so. To get to the root cause of a near-miss incident, they must be treated with the same attention to detail as if the event actually occurred.

■ If near misses are identified and corrected, future incidents may be prevented.

■ Near misses are an inexpensive opportunity to make changes in the workplace before something more severe occurs.

■ For near-miss reporting to be effective, there must be a system in place to collect the data, initiate proper root cause analysis, institute corrective action and follow-up to make sure corrective actions were effective.

■ In order to gain employee participation, near-miss reporting must not be punished.

Hand-held tool safety
Hand-held tool safety practices should be followed to reduce serious and disabling injuries in the workplace. Most accidents occur in the workplace owing to the use of incorrect hand-held tools to perform work. Defective hand-held tools can cause serious injuries. Hand-held tools can be used safely if you follow these guidelines:

■ Always inspect hand-held tools prior to use. Make sure to remove any defective tool from service.

■ Select the correct tool for the job. Do not use a tool for anything other than its intended purpose.

■ If you see a co-worker using a hand tool incorrectly, stop them and suggest the correct method.

Take note
Operating mobile equipment while fatigued can be fatal to you and others and is as dangerous as operating while impaired owing to drugs and alcohol.

Information for this story courtesy of Caterpillar Inc. Click here for more information.

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