Let’s Eliminate Fatigue in Construction

Aaron Vousden

Aaron Vousden

Civil Engineer

When I worked on site, I was often exhausted from the long hours and the travelling to and from work. 50 hours Monday to Friday, 5 hours on a Saturday and then an hour long commute each way. That adds up to 67 hours of travelling and working. Which is a lot by any standard!

But to be honest, being a direct member of staff, I was one of the lucky ones. There were men and women on some of my projects working 12-hour night shifts with similar or even longer commutes to myself.

When I decided to write this blog post, I did some research and found that more than 3m people are employed as shift workers in the UK. And according to the HSE“Fatigue results in slower reactions, reduced ability to process information, memory lapses, absent-mindedness, decreased awareness, lack of attention, underestimation of risk, reduced coordination etc. Fatigue can lead to errors and accidents, ill-health and injury, and reduced productivity. It is often a root cause of major accidents. Fatigue has also been implicated in 20% of accidents and is said to cost the UK £115 — £240 million per year in terms of work accidents alone.”

So how do we work together to solve the fatigue problem?
We believe that it is primarily a cultural issue within the industry; where people work long hours, commute long distances and work outside office hours, because people feel they have to. However, the recent shift in working arrangements due to the Coronavirus has highlighted that in many cases, it is possible to work remotely and travel a lot less and lot less often whilst still getting the job done and maintaining productivity.

At innDex we are playing our part to reduce fatigue. We have developed our suite of software solutions with the management of fatigue as a priority from the outset. Our platform allows employers/project managers/individuals to easily monitor cumulative working and commuting times. We enable automatic notification of when Working Hours Policies are being breached or are about to be breached. Employers have a legal duty to manage risks from fatigue. But compliance with the Working Time Regulations by employers alone is insufficient to manage the risks of fatigue. As individuals we have a responsibility to look after ourselves and our colleagues. Up until recently, fatigue management has been a sort of tick box exercise by many people in our industry. This behaviour needs to urgently change!

It is incredibly hard to monitor fatigue. Below are some of the reasons we have observed from personal experience, speaking to friends in the industry and our customers.

  • Cultural barriers within the industry
  • Individual personal circumstances
  • Paper based timekeeping that is not shared, properly stored, easily accessible or efficient to analyse
  • Unwillingness to share timesheet information between organisations for commercial reasons
  • It can be difficult to determine if an individual is working on multiple sites
  • No allowance for travel time between home and work
  • Inconsistent data capture and little to no trend analysis
  • No automated checks or early warnings that a person is likely to exceed safe working time and become severely fatigued

We have designed our fatigue management software to enable companies implement proper fatigue management processes and procedures. Using our platform they can analyse the data to see what’s actually happening and take meaningful evidence-based actions. Using our software we are working to raise awareness on construction sites, from apprentices to the project directors and everyone in between and above! We are going further and helping our customers to resource their projects based on fatigue mitigating criteria and leading indicators; such as the following:

  • Travel time and distance
  • Mode of transport
  • Job type
  • Experience
  • Shift pattern history
In addition to this; there is a direct link between fatigue and mental health. We see that individuals who are overworked and suffer from fatigue are more likely to suffer from mental health issues. This is one of the reasons why we have partnered with Mates in Mind, offering their services through our platform and working with them to highlight their services and raise awareness throughout the industry but especially on construction sites.

I wish we had all the answers, but we don’t. We are working collaboratively with our customers to help solve this problem and it continues to evolve.

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