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Fatigue among seafarers has increasingly become a fundamental issue of a global concern because of the extent it effects the operations in the shipping industry. Research has suggested that about 75 percent of accidents in shipping industry can be attributed to human error, which in the majority of these cases, results from a chain of events that are linked to fatigue (Dawn1).  Maritime regulators, trade unions owners of ships, and the international Group of P & I clubs are all aware of the fact that circumstances in some cruises including a sequence of rapid turnarounds, minimal manning, short sea passages, adverse traffic and weather conditions, may find workers operating for extended hours with inadequate recuperative breaks (Robertson 454).

Fatigue is a process and can be viewed as such (McCabe 31). Factors that induce fatigue, including the fatigue perceptions and the associated outcomes linked to it can all be evaluated as part of a process. There are many fatigue risk factors that have been clearly identified as relevant to seafarers, including long working hours, lack of sleep, poor quality sleep, prolonged work, working at times of low alertness, excessive workload, insufficient rest between work periods, dehydration, noise and vibration, motion, acute illnesses and medical conditions. Most of these issues reflect organizational factors such as the use of fatigue-inducing shift systems or insufficient manning levels (McCabe 31). It is a combination of several risk factors that often leads to reduced well-being of seafarers, resulting to deteriorated performance and thus exposing the cruise operations to such high risk combinations. In addition, fatigue and stress increases the risk of mishaps and injuries.

In circumstances where seafarers find themselves working for long hours as a result of a combination factors such as inadequate manning, adverse traffic and weather conditions, short sea passages and sequences of rapid turnarounds, the resulting fatigue reduces performance, and can lead ill health and reduced lifespan among the seafarers (Bruce 28). This is an issue of concern because this highly skilled seafarers are scarce and in high demand. It is therefore very important to take a holistic approach on the effects of fatigue and the associated health risks affecting the seafarers during their long periods away from home. This includes consistently high workloads and limited communication. The issues of adequate manning and the effect of strain upon health and safety upon the ship industry workers are evidently strongly related.

Fatigue can be subdivided into the following aspects:

1. Physical exhaustion which manifests itself as a local, muscle-specific inability to do perform at the usual standards. This can also be manifested as an overall, systemic bodily or sense of energy deprivation with description such as 'palpitations' 'pant,' 'heavy breathing,' or 'sweaty,'

2. Physical distress or work-induced burning sensations caused by static load on small muscle factions. These results into stressed muscles, ache, lack of sensation, twinge.

3. Lack of energy as a result of physical and mental exhaustion. This result to an individual feeling exhausted worn out, spent or weary.

4. Lack of motivation and mental inability to carry on at the level of one's normal performance levels. The person becomes passive, listless, uninterested and lacks of initiative.

5. Sleepiness as a result of poor inadequate rest. This is a mental fatigue resulting in lack of concentration and the person feels sleepy, drowsy and lazy.

2. Fatigue: A Major Health and Safety Issue

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Fatigue has been frequently cited as one of the casual features in almost every report on investigation of accident happening these days. Factors such as minimum or inadequate manning are often attributed to   such incidents, where the watch-keeping and bridge manning patterns are evidently unconducive to the seafarers operating pattern. However, inadequate or minimum manning is not the only cause of fatigue. A combination of other issues including watch-keeping patterns also contributes to seafarer's fatigue. Fatigue therefore manifests itself through a range of operational, environmental, psychological, and physiological factors that will have an affect the performance as well as the health of every person onboard.

It has been reported that about 80 percent of marine accidents are either directly or indirectly their caused by human error (Robertson 54). Donaldson (1994) reported that human error is virtually the root cause of all marine accidents. Although the marine accidents causation chain may be long and complex, fatigue has persistently been identified as either the major contributory factor or a primary cause. The same applies for unsafe practices and near-misses. Accidents result in loss of life and properties, major pollutions and other losses which translate into enormous costs to shippers, ship-owners, and the general society.

a) Dimensions of Fatigue

Fatigue can be depicted as being made of several components (McCabe 31). These different components are expressed in the aspects of general tiredness, vitality or vigor and the ability to think or reason. Someone may feel fatigued, resulting to deteriorated performance because the body's physiological functioning becomes affected. Measure of the prevalence of fatigue varies depending on which fatigue process aspect one uses as the gauge of fatigue. For instance, if one measure assumes that shift work schedules are a risk factor for fatigue, the number of workers performing shift work will be an indicator of fatigue prevalence. However, this will be based on an assumption that doing shift work automatically translates to fatigue, which is not always the case. Likewise, fatigue can be measured by considering the negative occurrences.  The extent of the negative outcomes will also depend on the chosen indicator. These three outcomes, this is performance, subjective perceptions, and physiological changes are typically accepted as the core indicators of acute fatigue.

Fatigue can also be symptoms of other issues such as hypoxia and dehydration, and the interconnections to other problems can be used assess the risk factor.

b) Risk factors for fatigue

The levels of fatigue are not easily quantified or measured; thus, it is not easy to isolate the effect of fatigue on injury and accident rates. However, the concern is that increased fatigue or stress effects or contributes to the occurrence of the accident (Joel 10). Fatigue risk factors for have been well documented and can be divided into factors which characterize the individual and reflect the organization of the work.

Many of the reputed fatigue risk factors are vastly applicable to seafarers and their working environment. These risk factors that indicate the potential problems often replicate specific organizational factors while others may possibly reflect the specific voyage cycle. It is crucial to recognize is that fatigue may be most readily observed as the combination of risk factors when a large number of these factors are present.

Until recently, most regulatory bodies have focused on work schedules as the major indicator and fatigue predictor (McCabe 121). Recent studies have indicated that psychosocial workplace stressors are liable to reveal cumulative links between work stresses self-reports and deprived health outcomes. Surveys of large general working population indicate that high demands, low control, high effort, low reward, low support and exposure to physical hazards, combined with long hours and shift-work, demonstrated considerably greater associations with work related stress when considered individually.

c) Consequences of fatigue in the workforce

Fatigue leads to pronounced performance impairment, decreased alertness, decreased motivation and increases the possibility of mistakes and exaggeration of Small errors (Dawn2). Human errors increase with the level of fatigue which also increases the risk of groundings or collisions as well as increased risk of injury to an individual and also to others. A combination of risk factors often leads to reduced well-being and impaired performance. It is evidently clear that the marine crew is exposed to the same high risk combinations (Dawn 2). For instance, if an individual is deprived of sleep then this effect can be compounded by other factors such as having to work at night or doing a boring task. Sleep deprivation will lender an individual towards "micro sleep" tendency. Fatigues will also impairing individual performance, while reducing safety and affecting the well-being. This will increase mental health issues and probably increase chronic disease risks. The resulting health problems can lead to an inability and disability to work. Fatigue can also lead to reduced safety, thereby increasing the risk of accidents that may eventually lead to injuries, loss of life, damage to the environment, which comes with huge economic cost (Goetsch 82).

3. Fatigue in the Maritime Industry

In the maritime industry, estimates of the proportions of accidents attributable to human factors range between 50 and 90 percent (Robertson 152). Although many sources have provided estimates for the role of human error in contributing to transportation accidents, the incidence of fatigue as a causal or contributing factor in transportation accidents is not yet clear. However, several studies have cited cases where fatigue, sleepiness, and disruption of circadian rhythm have played a role in major transportation accidents, including several maritime casualties. As in other domains, maritime accidents linked to fatigue seem to be associated with sleep disruptions caused by the need to work thought the day. Accident rate vary with through the day with a peak in the early morning hours and a slight rise in the early afternoon.

 

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The standard work schedule of watch standers on the ocean going vessels consists of two watches of 4 hours separated by an 8-hour rest period. For example, one mate stands watch from 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM and 4:00PM to 8:00 PM, another mate stands watch from midnight to 4:00 AM and noon to 4:00PM, and a third mate stands watch from 8:00 AM to noon and from 8:00 PM to midnight. Beyond the watch schedule, mariners often work overtime during their off-watch hours to complete repairs, maintenance, and administrative tasks. The combination of watch standing and overtime work may result in more than 10 hrs of work each day, with a 12 hour day being common. Furthermore, this schedule is often maintained continually, without any day off, for many weeks. This schedule makes it impossible to sleep for more than 8 hours at a time and forces mariners to sleep in two periods of two to six hours. Vibration, noise, light intrusion, and ship motion can make sleep during these short periods difficult. During storms, ship motion can be so extreme that it may be difficult to remain in the bunk. Previous fatigue researches suggest that these environmental characteristics undermine alertness.

Beyond environmental factors, task demands associated with cargo loading, navigating into ports, and attending to unanticipated repairs can lead to long periods of intense work that can interrupt and disrupt the routine sleep schedule.

4. Fatigue, accidents and injuries

- Human Physiology and Anthropometry

Fatigue is perceived to be a common occurrence in the maritime industry; however there is little quantitative information about both the nature and the extent of fatigue in this industry.

Many physiological functions, including sleep cycle, digestion, hormonal activity, and body temperature are regulated in cycles. Disruption of these functions, as transoceanic cruises and shift workers who work irregularly is fatiguing because the change in schedules can be more rapid than is the body's ability to adjust.   

- Information Processing and Cognition

Researchers studying human factors agree that fatigue can impair information processing. Research has that fatigue affects reaction time and increases the probability of an error. This ultimately leads to increased risks of marine accidents. Cumulative sleep loss, inadequate and poor quality of sleep, shift work and work schedules, circadian rhythms and circadian disruptions will eventually lead to a physiological state characterized by diminished alertness and impaired performance. It has been established that those workers who had been awake for long periods (18 to 27 hours) continuously display cognitive decrements in performance. In circumstances where seafarers find themselves working for long hours as a result of a combination factors such as inadequate manning, adverse traffic and weather conditions, short sea passages and sequences of rapid turnarounds, the resulting fatigue reduces performance.

 - Occupational Stressors

Fatigue is seen as a response of body and mind to the decline in resources because of exhaustion of a mental task and warning for the mounting risk of failure in performance. Fatigue is not only determined by the amount of work done but also by what still has to be done. The level of stress is related to the effectiveness human performance. It has been noted that stress is not an entirely negative state but at a certain level, it adds to efficiency of particular task performance. In fact, at moderate level, stress will increase human performance to an optimal level. Otherwise, very low stress levels will make the task to be dull and unchallenging and uninteresting. At such a low level, the performance awareness is decreased and will not be at its optimal level.

On other hand, stress will result to fatigue beyond when exerted beyond the moderate level. This will lead to decline in performance effectiveness due to factors such as fear, worry, or other kinds of psychological stressors. In general, when a person is performing an assignment under high stress, the probability human error occurrence is over and above when the same task is performed under moderate stress.

Research has consistently shown that fatigue degrades human performance and can contribute to or cause human error. It has been found that those who had been awake for as long as 18 to 27 hours continuously exhibit cognitive performance decrements. Fatigue actually impairs people's judgment and affects their performance. Research indicates that the normal working day vigilance increases as the working hours progresses towards the moderate operation time. Research also indicates that as people who become fatigued, the ability to consider options and reason becomes fixated and decreases progressively during the course of action. Furthermore, performance deteriorates due to fatigue on task dependent sequence of activities and work paced responsibilities that are characterized by time pressure.  

5. Fatigue Prevention, Management Programs and Recommendations for the Marine Industry

 Marine jobs have unusual fatigue combinations and these combinations frequently vary during the shifts (Bruce 28). However, even in marine jobs, fatigue is usually overcome by resting. Recovery time can generally be classified as at work example during vigilance, and off-work-example evening, weekend, vacation and holidays). At work recovery can further be classified into formal breaks (tea break, lunch break), informal breaks (training, unplanned work interruption), working rest (long pauses) and micro breaks (short pauses of few minutes or even less than a minute). Tasks using a different body part or muscle can also be counted as a recovery time, for example a task of answering the phone as an alternative to the main task of keying data. Although some rest time may go unpaid from the financial cost point of view, a rest is a rest from a fatigue viewpoint.

Working Hours and Fatigue

While implication of health for health and safety have long been recognized, marine operators have not been successful in implementation of a formal fatigue management strategy, though there are certainly procedures in place aimed at minimizing the effect of fatigue on employees (Heinrich et al. 213). Today, fatigue management within has consisted of a focus on four key areas: Shift scheduling, monitoring of working time exceedances, education on managing fatigue, and workplace design and assessment.

 Fatigue Prevention Guidelines

1. Fatigue Prevention, Management Programs and Recommendations for the Marine Industry

Marine jobs have unusual fatigue combinations and these combinations frequently vary during the shifts (Bruce 28). However, even in marine jobs, fatigue is usually overcome by resting. Recovery time can generally be classified as at work example during vigilance, and off-work-example evening, weekend, vacation and holidays). At work recovery can further be classified into formal breaks (tea break, lunch break), informal breaks (training, unplanned work interruption), working rest (long pauses) and micro breaks (short pauses of few minutes or even less than a minute). Tasks using a different body part or muscle can also be counted as a recovery time, for example a task of answering the phone as an alternative to the main task of keying data. Although some rest time may go unpaid from the financial cost point of view, a rest is a rest from a fatigue viewpoint.

Working Hours and Fatigue

While implication of health for health and safety have long been recognized, marine operators have not been successful in implementation of a formal fatigue management strategy, though there are certainly procedures in place aimed at minimizing the effect of fatigue on employees (Heinrich et al. 213). Today, fatigue management within has consisted of a focus on four key areas: Shift scheduling, monitoring of working time exceedances, education on managing fatigue, and workplace design and assessment.

Fatigue Prevention Guidelines

1. Have a work scheduling policy

Work scheduling policy addresses the problem of inadequate recovery. Inadequate recovery is as a result of either too many work hours and or wrong timing of working hours.

Besides the primary duty, a lot of time can accrue although they may not count as having been spent on duty. For instance, marine crew may spend preparing for the main task or there may be waiting time spent before the primary task or and even after. Long hours on duty may be as a result of absenteeism of another crew member and or moonlighting. Work scheduling policy should probably put restrictions on prolonged overtime- for instance say about 12 hours per day or 55 hours per week.

2. Optimizing stimulation when performing a task

Stimulation during work should be optimized by balancing the factors that affect. This comes from the operation and the environment of work. Too little causes boredom while too much stimulation may cause overload. Too much stimulation also reduces environmental stimulations (Stephan 67). For instance, increased visual and audio privacy reduces environmental stimulations for an office task,

When stimulation is too little, the environmental and task stimulations increase. Task stimulation can be increased by job rotation or by including physical work into sedentary job. Environmental stimulations can be increase by (1) varying the climate (adjusting air velocity, temperature) (2) varying the auditory environment, example adjusting background sound, (3) conversation with others, and (4) adjusting the visual environment (e.g. adjusting light intensity).

3. Minimize the fatigue dose

The fatigue dose should be minimized before it becomes too great to handle. This includes handling the aspects of the intensity of work schedule. 

High levels of intensity should be reduced to match with perfect ergonomics practices; for instance, apply procedures and apparatus that will reduce carry and hold activities. Static work-this is holding- can be really stressful

The fatigue consequences exponentially increase with time.

4. Use of work breaks

Work breaks can be used to mitigate the effect of fatigue, while the worker remains productive during the break. This is achieved by selecting a task that can be performed using a different body part or muscles to carry out the task, while the strained part rests. If the worker is using a automatic machine, he can relax during the semiautomatic operation of the work sequence. Alternatively, job rotation can help in fatigue recovery whereby workers reallocate tasks once in a while. This can yield the best results if the substitute task employs a particularly different body or muscle elements.

5. Use of frequent short breaks

The effect of fatigue can be minimized by dividing break time durations. The idea is to divide break time because fatigue recuperation is exponential. If it takes 30 minutes to recover, it will take only two minutes for the fatigue level to fall from a 100 percent to 75 percent. It will also take 20 minutes for the fatigue level to fall from 25 percent to 0 percent fatigue. Thus, breaks should be given in small segments.

6. Maximize the recovery rate

The idea is to have quick recovery as possible. This means reducing the fatigue half life.  This is achieved by reducing contact with the environmental stressors, for instance by choosing a quite area to recuperate from noise; a cool recuperation area to recuperate from heat; to recuperate from vibrations, chose a no vibration area (Stephan 70). For muscle stressors, it will be of help to be in good shape and to have a good quality circulation system.

7. Increasing the work/ recovery ratio

This seeks to solve the problem inadequate time to recover by decreasing working time or increasing recovery time. For instance, if a particular part of the body or joint is used 8 hours per day, the 16 hours used to recover can be divided into two hours of recovery per every hour of work. When the task requires only one arm, the two arms can be alternated such that one arm is used four hours per day, thus for 20 hours available for recovery can be subdivided into 5 hour per one hour of working. Overtime, 12 hour shifts or moonlighting can cause fatigue problems. Working 12 hours per day gives a recovery of 12 hours, such that there will be one hour of recovery per every hour of work (Stephan 71).          

Fatigue Prevention Legislation: Guidance from the international maritime organization

The Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization has produced a comprehensive guideline on Fatigue Mitigation and Management (International Maritime Organization 3). In particular, the guidance was prepared for international shipping and refers to some factors, such as living on board ship. The guideline is addressed to all those who may have an impact on ship safety, including naval architects, masters, operators, owners, ratings, officers and administrators and training institutions. It covers the nature and the cause of fatigue, the preventive measures as well as counter-measures. One of the aims of the guidance is to provide a base for generating a variety of tools for information dissemination in the guidelines (International Maritime Organization 3). The full guidance is lengthy and not all of it may be relevant to all operators. Owners and operators are encouraged to refer to the guidance and to use it selectively as it applies to their specific needs, and for the development of their guidance appropriate to their own area of operation.  The IMO guidance should be taken into consideration when determining minimum safe manning and when generating, executing and improving safety systems and management under the IMO Code.

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