The oil and gas industry is wide awake to the issue of workers being dog-tired
A number of studies show that being awake for 17 hours is actually the same as having a blood alcohol level of about .05—enough to stop drivers in their tracks. If you usually sleep eight hours a day, this is the same as staying up an hour later. Being awake for 21 hours straight is the same as .08, and workers who go 24 hours without sleep perform about as well as someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.1.
Fatigue is that draggy, raggy feeling you get when you’re not getting enough sleep. It slows down your reactions and ability to make decisions and reduces your productivity. Working long hours is just one cause of fatigue. Others include stress, anxiety, poor sleep or sleep disorders, short turnaround between shifts and medical conditions. Drugs and alcohol are also fatigue generators.
In other words, without enough solid sleep you’re wasted—and you could be an accident waiting to happen. Around the “patch,” long days and nights are pretty well a given. Twelve-hour shifts seven days a week are common. The travel time between shifts can eat up more hours, and if you’re a fly-in, fly-out worker, commuting can really cut into your snooze time.
All kinds of industries are finding a link between fatigue and work-related injuries: the risk of errors, accidents and injuries—especially in high-risk, safety-critical environments—jumps when workers are tired and can’t function at their peak level. For Canadian offshore oil and gas operations, workers cannot work more than 12.5 hours at a time or have fewer than eight hours between shifts without being assessed and tracked.
Worker fatigue is thought to be a culprit in major incidents such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Chernobyl nuclear accident. It’s also considered one of the leading reasons behind worker deaths and injuries while driving on the job.
When you’re fatigued at work—you become the hazard
If you’re not getting the sleep you need, a lack of shut-eye can have hazardous consequences at work. Fatigued workers tend to avoid complex tasks, work slower, and rely more on their co-workers.
Watch for these signs if you are feeling tired, or notice a co-worker that may be fatigued:
• More mistakes than usual
• Poor logic and judgement including taking risks the worker would usually not take
• Decreased alertness and watchfulness
• Failure to respond to changes in surroundings or situations
• Slower reflexes and reactions
• Moodiness e.g., giddy, depressed, irritable, impatient boredom, restlessness
• Micro sleeps
• Automatic behaviour
DID YOU KNOW: Most accidents occur when people are more likely to want to sleep—between the hours of midnight to 6:00am and between the afternoon lull from 1pm-3pm.*
Dealing with being tired on the job comes down to some simple basics:
1.Listen and watch. Fatigue robs you of the ability to know exactly how you’re doing. If someone says you’re off your game, take it seriously and take a break. Keep an eye out for others who are fatigued.
2.Talk about it. Like any hazard on the job, it can’t be dealt with unless it’s talked about with the people you work with, your safety supervisor and your boss. Industry knows fatigue is a problem and is working on ways to manage it.
3.Finally, get some sleep. Granted, it might take some effort given a crowded work camp or your six-year-old’s Saturday morning hockey practice.
Get your ZZZ’s
To get enough sleep and to do your job safely and efficiently, sleep in a dark room that’s quiet and cool. Our circadian rhythms (the internal clock that tells our bodies when to sleep) are geared to light. If you’re exposed to bright light 20 minutes before going to bed, your sleep can be disrupted. If you need to watch TV or go online, turn down the brightness. And don’t do anything really interesting as it will stimulate you and keep you awake.