Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Transport Canada - Aviation Safety Letter Fatigue Risk Management System for the Canadian Aviation Industry: An Introduction to Managing Fatigue (TP 14572E)

Fatigue Risk Management System for the Canadian Aviation Industry: An Introduction to Managing Fatigue (TP 14572E)

This is the first of a seven-part series to highlight the work done by the Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) Working Group, and also to highlight the various elements of the FRMS Toolbox. This first part refers to TP 14572E. We encourage our readers to consult the complete documentation by visiting —Ed.

Being tired at work can be just as dangerous as taking alcohol or drugs. You can lose concentration, misjudge speed and distance, react more slowly—you might even fall asleep. Being tired can also make you moody and irritable, and can cause you to take risks. Any one of these problems could put you and other people in danger.

When you work shifts, you’re bound to feel tired sometimes. You’re out of step with your body’s natural sleeping and waking rhythms. TP 14572E gives you an overview of the risks associated with fatigue, and offers some strategies to help you manage the effects of fatigue at work and make sure you get the rest you need to be fit for duty.

Fatigue is widely recognized as a significant safety hazard, not just to you and your co-workers, but to the general public. That’s why Transport Canada commissioned a set of tools and guidelines to help the Canadian aviation industry set up FRMSs.

FRMSs recognize that it’s everyone’s responsibility to manage fatigue risk. Employers should make sure that work schedules give employees adequate opportunities for rest between shifts. In turn, employees are responsible for making sure they use those opportunities to get the sleep they need to be fit for work.

An important part of any FRMS involves teaching employees and managers about fatigue as a safety hazard and how to better manage their own fatigue.

Causes and consequences of fatigue
What causes fatigue?
How much sleep we need varies from person to person, but most people need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you get less than you need over several days, that lack of sleep will build up into a sleep “debt.” Losing two hours of sleep a night for four days can make you as tired as though you lost a whole night’s sleep. The only way to pay back your sleep debt is by getting some additional “recovery” sleep.

The human body runs on a 24-hr clock, programmed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. Working when your body is supposed to be sleeping can make it hard to get good quality sleep. Not only do you not sleep as well, some research suggests that night-shift workers can lose one to three hours of sleep per day compared to day-shift workers. Six hours of sleep during the day is not the same as six hours of night sleep.

Your body clock also controls your body’s daily cycles, such as hormone production, digestion, temperature, and sleepiness. There are two times during the day when you’re more likely to feel drowsy: in the early morning between midnight and 6 a.m., and in the mid-afternoon.

Your sleep, too, runs in cycles. Over the course of the night, you move several times from a light sleep to a deep dreaming sleep and back to a light sleep. How long each cycle runs varies from person to person, but it’s usually somewhere from 60 to 90 min. It’s the deepest sleep that you need to recover best from fatigue.

It is not true that we need less sleep as we get older—we simply have more trouble getting what we need.

Beyond not getting enough sleep, feelings of fatigue can also be brought on or made worse by conditions in your workplace. High-pressure demands, long shifts, stress, and even things like poor lighting, constant noise, and poor weather can make you feel more tired. Not taking breaks during your shift will also increase your feelings of fatigue.

Balancing the demands of shift work with your family and social life can also be stressful and make it hard to get the sleep you need to be fit for duty.

Consequences of fatigue
Being fatigued can have an effect on many aspects of your life. Many people suffer from mood swings, which can hurt your relationships at work and at home. Some people gain weight. Others find it harder to get motivated at work or at home. You can become frustrated trying to balance the need for more sleep with the need to spend time with friends and family.

Many people who work shifts feel socially isolated, which only adds to the stress and overall feeling of fatigue. In the long term, shiftwork can lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease or gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers.

On the job, fatigue can be a serious safety hazard. Research has found that losing just one night of sleep can impair your performance almost as much as having too much alcohol to legally drive. Your reaction time is slower, you have trouble concentrating or remembering things—you may even fall asleep on the job. There’s a much greater risk that you’ll make a safety-critical mistake. Being fatigued can make you a risk to yourself, your co-workers, and even the public. It’s not just at work that being fatigued can be dangerous. There’s a real risk that you’ll fall asleep at the wheel while driving home after a long shift.

Consequences of fatigue
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Increased risk of accident
  • Increased stomach upsets
  • Decreased motivation
  • Mood swings or depression
  • Increased safety risk
  • Increased sick leave
  • Increased staff turnover
  • Decreased productivity
  • Decreased morale
  • Increased safety risk for general public
  • Increased use of medical services
  • Decreased community participation

For more, including strategies to manage fatigue, visit



This article was published by Transport Canada in TP 185E -. Reprinted with permission

Add comment

Security code