Fatigue Risk Management Guide issued for US towing industry

The guide, 'Developing a Fatigue Risk Management Plan: A Guide for Towing Vessel Operators', is produced under the leadership of AWO's Fatigue Risk Management Working Group, and is designed to help towing companies take a proactive approach to fatigue prevention by incorporating fatigue risk management plans into their safety management systems.

Developing a Fatigue Risk Management Plan encourages towing companies to evaluate their operating environment for fatigue risks and identify policies and procedures already in place to mitigate these risks.

From there, a company can use the guide to link existing fatigue mitigation measures into a comprehensive fatigue risk management plan and identify and implement additional practices, controls and other tools to close gaps or expand their current efforts.

These include educating crew members about the effects of fatigue, improving the sleep environment on board vessels, establishing fatigue reporting protocols, and measuring the effectiveness of fatigue prevention efforts, among other elements.

The Fatigue Risk Management Working Group has identified four core elements that it considers to be most important in a fatigue risk management plan. These elements are agreed by experts to have the greatest potential to positively impact the management of fatigue risks and improve industry safety. A company looking to develop or enhance its fatigue mitigation program may consider focusing on these four core elements:

  • Education: In order to play their part in managing fatigue risks, towing vessel crewmembers must understand the effects of poor sleep on their alertness, performance and safety, as well as know how fatigue mitigation strategies can improve sleep quality and duration.
  • Environment: For crewmembers on live-aboard towing vessels, environmental factors may inhibit the ability to obtain quality sleep. Simple engineering solutions and behavior modifications to improve the sleep and vessel environments can improve crewmembers’ sleep quality.
  • Work Readiness and Fatigue Reporting: A key component of a fatigue risk management plan is the shared responsibility of a towing vessel crewmember to report ready for duty, and of a company to allow adequate opportunity for crewmembers to rest and provide a process for reporting when they have not been able to obtain sufficient rest and/or feel fatigued
  • Performance Measurement: As part of a fatigue risk management plan, companies should implement a process to regularly monitor and evaluate their fatigue management practices. This will allow them to assess whether and how these practices are being implemented, evaluate whether they are working and determine whether modifications are needed.
There is no single, simple solution to prevent and mitigate fatigue. However, a safety management system that takes a proactive approach to fatigue prevention tailored to a company’s unique operations will support towing vessel crew members in obtaining the sleep they need and reduce the risk of fatigue-related accidents on our waterways.

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