Working Hours and Fatigue

Fatigue and long hours of work are a major problem in the railway industry. ASLEF campaigns for legislation to limit driver hours and ensure adequate rest.

Fatigue and long hours of work are a major problem in the railway industry. We have argued long and hard for legislation to limit drivers hours. Under the current political climate, ASLEF realises that we will have to achieve our goals by industrial, rather than political, means.

ASLEF's policy, agreed at our Annual Assembly of Delegates (AAD) is contained in the ASLEF Charter. We are working towards all of these policies to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our members.

We have produced two booklets on fatigue issues:

The 2010 AAD updated the ASLEF Health and Safety Charter. This includes a limitation of drivers hours by negotiation of the following:

  • An average 32hr, 4 day week over the yearly roster cycle for all our members with special cognisance of shift patterns and fatigue. The maximum working day not to exceed 9 hours 30 minutes, or between 8 and 9 hours when working night turns of duty. There should also be protection for our members with a minimum turn length not to be lower than six hours of duty.
  • All free time off from duty to be rostered consecutively, to be guaranteed and mandatory by the elimination of institutionalised overtime.

The Office of Rail and Road also produce the document Managing Rail Staff Fatigue which provides guidance in managing fatigue risks.

HSE Fatigue and Index Calculator

This is probably the most common fatigue tool in the rail industry, and based upon published scientific literature on fatigue, alertness, sleepiness, and occupational injuries.

You can access the tool itself and the user guide here.

RSSB information on fatigue and shiftwork

The Rail Safety and Standards Board has produced two reports on fatigue and shiftwork, including guidelines for the management and reduction of fatigue in train drivers. Information from driver surveys and accident risk based on Signals Passed At Danger (SPADs), together with reviews of the scientific literature, were used to produce draft guidelines for the management of shift patterns, fatigue countermeasures for drivers and suggested guidelines for fatigue monitoring.

RSSB report on fatigue and shiftwork for passenger train drivers

RSSB report on fatigue and shiftwork for freight train drivers

RSSB advice on fatigue, Feeling tired? which includes a sleep quiz.

ORR Good Practice guidelines on managing fatigue

The ORR have published guidance on good practice in managing fatigue associated with work in the rail industry.

After a wide-ranging industry consultation, they are publishing the guidance to give advice on good practice in fatigue management.

This rail industry-specific guidance builds on the more general guidance applicable to all industries. The ORR guidance advocates a proportionate approach to fatigue, with simple controls where risks are low, but a more comprehensive ‘fatigue risk management’ system (FRMS) approach where risks from fatigue are greater, to help reduce the risk of fatigue-based errors.

For more information on this, and for the ORR approach to health and safety regulation of the rail industry more generally, please visit the ORR website.

Fatigue and Risk Index

The HSE Research Report Series RR446 - The development of a fatigue/risk index for shiftworkers is now available.

This report describes the work carried out to revise and update the HSE Fatigue Index (FI). Extensive changes have been made to the previous version, incorporating recent information relating to a variety of issues including cumulative fatigue, time of day, shift length, the effect of breaks and the recovery from a sequence of shifts. In addition, a review has been carried out of trends in risk related to shift work, and this has enabled the final version to incorporate two separate indices, one related to fatigue (the Fatigue Index) and the other to risk (the Risk Index).

While the two indices are similar in many respects they diverge in others. The main differences are due to the different trends with respect to time of day in fatigue and risk. The index has been implemented in the form of a spreadsheet, the design of which has incorporated feedback from users of the previous index.

Action on Fatigue

The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) have published updated guidance on good practice in managing fatigue associated with work in the rail industry: Managing Fatigue – A Good Practice Guide, Document no. RS/504 Issue 1, September 2012.

This guidance, which is aimed at employers in the rail industry, follows Managing rail staff fatigue, guidance previously issued by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s General Secretary, said: “Fatigue in the rail industry is a potential killer and now we have both the rail regulator and rail standards body issuing guidance saying it must be managed properly to reduce the risk we are calling for genuine action which will have a real effect in reducing fatigue and making the railways safer.”

The RSSB guidance clearly states that rail employers must recognise fatigue management as an issue which they should take seriously and that they must involve employees and their representatives in any plans to make improvements.

This is therefore an important document for ASLEF members and reps as it underlines the need for rail employers to properly manage the risks arising from fatigue in the industry while offering ASLEF negotiators the opportunity to raise the issue formally with the rail employers and negotiate improvements. In particular the guidance commits to fatigue risk management groups to oversee the work, something ASLEF has been keen for rail employers to establish for some considerable time. The RSSB guidance note 4.2 Roles and Responsibility states:

Depending on the size and nature of the organisation, there may be benefit in establishing a Fatigue Management Steering Committee, or appointing a Fatigue Champion(s), to provide overall control of FRMS activities. This requires the allocation of roles and responsibilities for those responsible for different actions and adequate resources to enable effective implementation.