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Rail News: Labor

WMATA pursues 'comprehensive approach' to fatigue management

Scientific research involving Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) employees on the best way to manage fatigue will be discussed this week by the WMATA Safety and Security Committee.

The committee will receive an update on the research, including a finding that recommends "a methodical, comprehensive approach" to managing worker fatigue rather than considering only the number of hours an employee works, WMATA officials said in a prepared statement.

The agency began to address fatigue management in 2011, starting with a joint study with the Tri-State Oversight Committee. More recently, a study of WMATA bus operator shifts found that the majority of employees worked between 8 and 11.75 hours, and that just 0.4 percent of bus operators' work hours resulted in fatigue that exceeds criteria established by the Federal Railroad Administration's research model.

"While we need to avoid schedules that call for excessive hours, it's equally important to modify work patterns through a combination of education, training and lifestyle choices to ensure employees can avoid fatigue," said Safety Committee Chairman Mort Downey.

A fatigue management expert who is conducting the research recommended that WMATA consider several factors when developing a program to combat employee fatigue, including a shift's time of day, employee sleep habits and general wellness.

"We are already modifying our training and mitigating schedules while we prepare an education program for employees with common sense tips about fighting fatigue and a wellness program to encourage good lifestyle choices," said General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Richard Sarles.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.