In 2010 I did a joint paper for SAIMM called “Fatigue Knowledge – A new lever in Safety Management” subsequent to work done at Union mine Decline section where I was introduced to the concept of Fatigue in the workplace and its negative impact on behavioural in the work environment. The purpose of this paper is to explore this further and to give an introduction to the concept of fatigue and the causes thereof in the mining industry. It also describes the evolution of fatigue knowledge moving from just a lever for safety management to being a safety management imperative. I also elaborate on the Booysendal Division approach.

The DMR started recognising Fatigue as a major contributing factor to injuries and launched the process of gazetting a mandatory code of practice on Fatigue management that is expected to come to reality early 2015 through Circular No: 118-MHSC-CON-2013-14 Attachment 3 Item 6.1.11 Refers – Guideline for compilation of a mandatory code of practice for fatigue management at mines.

The objective of this guideline is set out to be:

Risk based fatigue management at any working place, which are to assist mines to:

• develop strategies for controlling risks of fatigue effectively
• develop site specific fatigue management plans and programmes and
• look at factors to be considered when managing fatigue

The difference between physical and psychological fatigue gets explored further with possible range of causes that could trigger fatigue. There are two main sources of fatigue; Firstly, work-related fatigue which is associated with activities at the workplace and secondly non-work-related fatigue. The shared responsibility between the employer and employee was also discussed as it involves factors that occur both in and outside the workplace.

Employers have the responsibility to manage fatigue through using a risk management approach. Employees have the responsibility to ensure they get enough sleep, take sufficient and regular nutrition, health and physical fitness and come to work fresh and alert. The impact of the implementation of fatigue management plan and procedures has the potential to eliminate employee fatigue or its causes, reduce the likelihood of fatigue occurring in the workplace, and counteract the effects of fatigue when it occurs. Factors considered when implementing a fatigue management system includes, extended hours of work, shift work, time of day and work design.

Fatigue is one of the major role players (either causal or contributory) when it comes to causes of fatalities in the mining industry. Our main challenge in identifying whether fatigue played a role is the fact that it can’t be tested in post-mortems like drug or alcohol abuse. It is also not an issue to look at as yet another aspect for reasoning failures, rather an aspect worth understanding and getting an organisation sensitive to managing it properly to benefit both organisational as well as employee needs.

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