Offshore Supply — The problems of Fatigue and Tiredness
Working offshore is demanding – the work is specialized and often technical, the schedules are intense, fatigue and tiredness represent potential problems for everyone on board. Tiredness is due to long and hard physical effort – it is resolved by rest and sleep. This is not always easy on a constantly moving vessel.
Fatigue builds up over time and includes both physical and mental effects and results in reduced physical and mental capacity. It can be difficult to recover. The effects of fatigue are dangerous – it affects everyone regardless of experience, skills, age, knowledge and training. It can affect the individual’s reaction time, coordination and decision making. The senior officers on board need to be aware of this possibility which is especially likely towards the end of the shift or the tour.
Deck crew can be involved in hard physical work and so are affected by tiredness. Over time, this can also build up into fatigue. Those on the bridge are at risk of fatigue when maneuvering the vessel for long periods while close to installations. To avoid tiredness and fatigue, all personnel must use their off-duty time to relax and sleep.
There is international legislation that restricts working hours on ships and so helps to combat fatigue. Everyone on board must comply with the working hours requirements set out in the STCW Convention and the Maritime Labor Convention.
Occasionally, installations will ask for more working hours than the vessel is chartered for. Masters should put the welfare of their crews first. If they believe that crew fatigue will increase the hazards of any requested operation, they must say no and give their reasonsю
As well as knowing the legislation, the human element is equally important. Everyone must make the best use of their off-duty time to get enough rest. Senior officers must ensure that everyone including themselves does that. Tired and fatigued crew members are more likely to suffer personal injuries and make poor decisions with the potential to endanger the crew, the vessel, installations and the marine environment.
Everyone needs to aware of the effect of continual heavy weather on personnel’s ability to sleep. During safe job analysis, toolbox meetings, senior officers should watch out for any signs of fatigue in their personnel. But everyone should know how to recognize the signs of fatigue in themselves and their colleagues. The danger signs include:
- Difficulty staying awake
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slowness & clumsiness
Other signs show the psychological effect of fatigue. People become unusually irritant and less talkative. They can become depressed and show anti-social behavior. If anyone believes that fatigue is affecting them or a colleague, they should do all they can to get themselves or individual some rest. The person concerned must use their maximum allowance of rest time to sleep and relax.
Crew members should inform their supervisor if they believe that fatigue is lowering their effectiveness. In the longer term, reducing fatigue is helped by eating healthily, smoking less and reducing coffee consumption.
Fatigue is dangerous offshore because it leads to slower responses and poor judgment of distance, speed, time and risk. Individuals can become pre-occupied with a single task and overlook more important issues. They become less vigilant.
Officers should ensure that everyone including themselves gets enough rest and makes best use of their off-duty time to minimize fatigue. Everyone needs to be aware of the symptoms of fatigue. Remember that if you are suffering from fatigue, you have the potential to engender yourself, your colleagues, your vessel, and the marine environment.
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