“Fatigue is inevitable in a 24/7 industry. To remain ultra-safe, fatigue-related risks must be managed”
Fatigue is a generally well recognised human factor that leads to reduced alertness and subsequent safety issues. Fatigue can be caused by a wide variety of (combined) factors such as workload, night shifts, sleep debt or circadian disruption. Fatigue risk management and mitigation is therefore not straightforward. Instead, gaining thorough knowledge about the contributing factors in your organisation is essential in order to implement tailored and effective fatigue risk management strategies.
At the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), we bring together workplace, organisational, regulatory and scientific expertise through an inspiring team of human factors, training and safety experts. Whether you need assistance in developing and implementing optimal work schedules, the identification of fatigue causes and subsequent hazards in your organisation, or FRMS optimisation through management and mitigation, our support is modular and, depending on your situation, can be tailored to your specific needs and preferences.
We have extensive experience in fatigue risk management solutions for the following domains:
Airline crew schedules are typically irregular and involve duties that encroach the night, contributing to fatigue and thus an increased risk of human error.
In 2011, ICAO developed Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) enabling Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) as an alternative means of compliance to prescriptive limitations for aeroplane flight and cabin crew (Annex 6, Part I). The fatigue management amendments to the Annex 6, Part I, in 2011 led many States to reviewing their prescriptive limitation regulations for pilots and cabin crew based on scientific principles and knowledge. Many operators are still in the process of following up on these amendments and improving the management of fatigue-related risks in their operations. NLR supports airlines in improving the management of fatigue-related risks in a evidence based, tailored manner.
A distinction can be made between passengers and cargo transport. Compared to cargo pilots the passenger transport is more aimed at flying from home base to destination and back. Cargo pilots make round trips, thereby crossing time zones in several directions with all possible more complicating effect upon their fatigue levels.
The ATC work organisation requires individual Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) to work at times when they would normally be sleeping, exacerbating fatigue during working conditions that requires constant concentration and alertness.
Since 2020, ICAO amendments to Annex 11, require that ICAO States establish duty limits and specify certain scheduling practices for air traffic controllers as well. States therefore have the option of establishing FRMS regulations for air traffic service providers. NLR has the experience and scientific knowledge to support authorities and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) in establishing the required duty limits compliant to the ICAO SARPS. We provide guidance on the implementation of both the prescriptive and performance-based approaches of fatigue management.
Both during training and actual combat, it is essential for military operators to maintain as vigilant and alert as possible.
Different types of military operators (such as fighter-, helicopter-, drone and transport pilots, but also loadmasters, and sensor operators) need optimal sleep opportunities and fatigue mitigation to perform at their optimal level. NLR improves the management and mitigation of fatigue-related risks in military operations of Air Forces by means of implementing the required capabilities, operational experience, and a tailored fatigue management program.
Military staff often have a broad range of duties that are not flight related, while there is regulation for flying as well as for those other duties. The transition between those different sets of rules have the potential of resulting in fatigued staff if no one takes proper care about how these different sets of rules should be combined. In addition, non-combat related situations in the military domain, like training, can result in fatigued staff. NLR supports in identifying and managing the undesired hotspots with respect to fatigue during these situations.
Our institute has been involved in a wide variety of human factors related projects (both b2b and within European research consortia) outside aviation as well. Predominantly in other transport related domains such as road, water, and rail transportation, but also in control room work environments. Since both hazards and procedures are quite similar, we are keen to apply our knowledge on these, or other, sectors in which employees are exposed to irregular or long working hours, (night) shift schedules and/or circadian disruption.