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Tuesday, February 26, 2013    

FRA releases new study on rail worker fatigue


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Feb. 22 issued a new report on fatigue among rail workers.

Titled, "Fatigue Status of the U.S. Railroad Industry," the report draws on the results of several prior studies, all of which were conducted with a similar methodology. The report is based on data from logbook surveys of signalmen, maintenance-of-way workers, dispatchers, and train and engine service (T&E) employees that examined the relationship between work schedules and sleep patterns.

"Overall, U.S. railroad workers are more likely than U.S. working adults to get less than 7 hours of total sleep on workdays, but railroad workers average more total sleep when sleep on workdays and rest days are combined," FRA officials said in a report summary. "Logbook data for work and sleep indicates that T&E workers and third-shift dispatchers have the most fatigue exposure, and passenger T&E workers have the least. Railroad workers in all groups had less fatigue exposure than those involved in human factors accidents."

Among the report's findings:

• The risk of a human-factor accident is elevated 11 percent to 65 percent "above chance" by exposure to fatigue.

• The economic cost of a human-factor accident when an employee is very fatigued is approximately $1.6 million compared with $400,000 when there's an absence of fatigue.

• The amount of sleep and time of day when sleep occurs account for 85 percent to 96 percent of fatigue exposure.

• Rail workers' sleep patterns significantly differ per job type and schedule.
 
• All but 2.4 percent of rail workers in all groups who reported sleep disorders were receiving treatment.

The findings suggest that strategies for reducing rail worker fatigue include improving the predictability of schedules and educating workers about fatigue and sleep disorders, the FRA determined.

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