Company’s Integrated Approach Tackles Fatigue Management

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In an effort to establish practical solutions to fatigue-related risk, Petronas created a task force that included specialists, plant-operation personnel, shift supervisors, and information-technology (IT) team members. Discussions with stakeholders included a detailed review of the shift-manning procedure and work-process evaluation to address fatigue risks, and an analysis was performed to determine common issues that require further mitigation efforts. This paper describes the integrated approach taken by the company to reinforce effective management of fatigue.


Investigations into some of the worst industrial and environmental accidents have identified fatigue as a major contributor, although, in some of these cases, fatigue was not the only cause. Petronas has put in place a number of key controls to ensure that fatigue risks are managed accordingly at the workplace. These include a technical standard on management of fatigue, site procedures at operating units (e.g, shift-manning procedures, journey-management plans, and health-promotion programs), and audits to ensure compliance. Nonetheless, opportunities exist for improvement, particularly to reinforce the effective implementation of the program through integrated approaches that leverage IT and standardized work processes. Embedding fatigue management in day-to-day work processes is essential to achieve significant results in managing the risks.

Statement of Theory and Definitions

Fatigue is a progressive decline in ­alertness and performance caused by insufficient quality or quantity of sleep. This may result from extended work hours, overtime, shift work, insufficient opportunities for sleep, or the effects of sleep disorders or medical conditions that reduce sleep or increase sleepiness. Fatigue affects the ability to assess risk, increases willingness to accept risk, and decreases the ability to maintain attention. When fatigued, people find it more difficult to divide their attention adequately between multiple tasks and to plan for future actions. ­Fatigued people are more likely to suffer lapses in concentration and are more easily distracted from the task at hand. The more tired people become, the more likely they are to cut corners and to accept lower standards in accuracy and performance.

Fatigue contributes to accidents by impairing performance and, at the extreme end of the scale, by causing people to fall asleep while working. Human error resulting from fatigue is now widely acknowledged as the cause of numerous workplace disasters. Many disasters began with initial difficulties such as technical faults, but, because of fatigue, the operators did not manage the situation adequately, allowing the situation to escalate to an accident.

The company’s fatigue-management program (FMP) includes the following key activities:

  • Fatigue risk assessment at site
  • Establishment of a procedure to implement the FMP for the identified work groups
  • Implementation of the FMP for the identified work group or the group at risk, which includes
    • A review of manpower planning
    • Controls of workplace fatigue
    • Training and communication
    • Monitoring
    • Periodic review
  • The establishment and implementation of an assurance program
  • Incident investigations
  • Record keeping

Description and Application of Equipment and Processes

The main objective of the intervention is to develop a fit-for-purpose and effective fatigue-management program, structure, and system for practical use. In addition, the process enhances awareness of the importance of fatigue management among employees. The intervention will be able to deliver a more-effective FMP for the company.

Key deliverables were identified, including the development of a standardized work process in managing shift work and fatigue and the development of communication materials with clear messages to reinforce the understanding of and actions in fatigue management for employees and supervisors. The messages formulated in the communication materials were simple in order to facilitate better understanding of the subject of fatigue and, most importantly, of actions required from employees to manage fatigue. The intervention also promoted the use of an IT tool in monitoring, and tracking compliance to, hours-of-service limits.

As part of an effort to establish guidelines for practical solutions to fatigue-related risk, a task force was formed that consisted of specialists, plant-­operation personnel, shift supervisors, and IT-team members, and a situational-analysis survey was conducted. Survey feedback included information regarding the availability of site procedures to manage fatigue at work, communication and training tools, compliance to hours-of-service limits, and monitoring and tracking of performance indicators. The study included group discussion with various stakeholders to obtain feedback on the implementation of the FMP and its challenges on-site. The discussion also included a detailed review of shift-manning procedure and evaluation of the work processes to address fatigue risks among shift workers during normal plant operation and during turnaround.

Data and Results

An analysis of the survey identified several areas for improvements (Fig. 1). Regarding site procedure, most of the operating units already had developed specific procedures for fatigue management. However, the procedures for fatigue management were not embedded in the day-to-day shift-manning procedures at some of the operating units. Communication tools related to fatigue management were available in most of the operating units; however, the survey revealed that the material lacked action-oriented messages regarding what employees were expected to do in order to mitigate fatigue risks.

Fig. 1—Results of fatigue-management survey. HSE=health, safety, and environment. KPI=key performance indicators.


More contract workers are present at the worksite during turnaround. Gate-access systems at entry points were available at most operating units to ensure compliance to hours-of-service limits. The systems enable the safety-management team to monitor and track the number of working days of each contract worker and automatically deny entry to those who have exceeded the hours-of-service limits.

Survey results revealed that the operating units require improvement in the work processes and systems used to monitor and track compliance to hours-of-service limits among shift workers. Key performance indicators for fatigue need to be established and monitored regularly.

One of the main outcomes of the survey was the development of communication materials that emphasize the risks of fatigue, the signs of fatigue, actions to be taken by employees and supervisors to mitigate fatigue risks, and compliance to hours-of-service limits. A 4-minute awareness video with attractive animation communicated a condensed version of all the important facts. The short video is suitable for use as part of a safety briefing package. Standard posters on fatigue awareness also were made available to reinforce the message on fatigue-risk mitigation.

A standardized work process was developed that embeds steps to be taken to address fatigue risks as part of shift-manning management. It clearly prescribes the roles and responsibilities of various parties involved in fatigue management during shifts and turnaround. The work process also provides guidance on the use of IT tools as a system for effective shift manning and fatigue management.

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 185226, “Integrated Approach in Fatigue Management,” by M. Nizam Jemoin and Ahmad Khairi Abdullah, Petronas, prepared for the 2017 SPE Asia Pacific Health, Safety, Security, Environment, and Social Responsibility Conference, Kuala Lumpur, 4–6 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

Company’s Integrated Approach Tackles Fatigue Management

01 August 2017

Volume: 69 | Issue: 8


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