Fatigue Management in the Mining Industry- Insights from professor Drew Dawson

Nov 18
Author:Ash Natesh
Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterGoogle+Share on FacebookEmail to someone

The Centre for Sleep Research led by Professor Drew Dawson has introduced the prior/sleep wake model that allows for a scientific measure of fatigue relative to the error trajectory of the task at hand. This report reviews the risks of fatigue in the mining industry in QLD.

Fatigue in the QLD region:

Combining alcohol and high-risk activity is now known to dramatically increase the likelihood of an incident or even fatality occurring. What about fatigue?

The National Sleep Foundation of America conducted a Poll in 2008 regarding sleep, performance and the workplace. The results showed:

  • 32% of respondents admitted to driving whilst drowsy at least once a month during the past year
  • 36% of those had nodded off or fallen asleep
  • 2% of those who drove had an accident due to driving whilst drowsy in the past year


What about Fatigue in the Workplace?

  • 29% has felt extremely sleepy at work or fallen asleep
  • Only 4% left work early, and 2% did not go to work because they were too sleepy
  • And 87% agreed that their current work schedule allowed them to get enough sleep
  • But only 14% had missed a social event due to sleepiness

Based on these figures, an assumption can be made. 27 people out of 100 are operating in the workplace in a sleepy state, having a high possibility of having fallen asleep.  Furthermore, it may also be summarised that a large percentage of those reporting to work in a sleepy state, were sleepy as a result of social activities, not due to the lack of sleep opportunity as a result of work activities.

As a result of these and many other factors involving people’s work and personal commitments,  there has been devastating effects in the QLD region alone:

  • During 2002 to 2008, 29% of all fatal crashes within the Bowen Basin were a result of fatigue, 14.5% of fatal crashes in QLD were fatigue-related
  • During 2002 – 2006, 60 road fatalities in the Bowen Basin were a result of fatigue (Fatigue Assessment – A Scientific Approach in the Real World  QMIHS)                                       


How do you manage Fatigue in the workplace?

As employers, managers and supervisors in the mining industry, there is a legal responsibility to manage fatigue in the workplace.  Employers have a responsibility for providing staff with a work schedule that does not require excessive wakefulness and provides the opportunity to obtain sufficient sleep. In determining this, the employer must take into account normal non-work activities and responsibilities of the employee. This must be done from the view of what is reasonably expected.

This is a daunting task, both politically and operationally.  How do you take into account the “non-work” activities of your employee?

An organisation’s employees also have legal obligations and responsibilities to manage their personal activities and “non-work” fatigue.  Employees are responsible for using their allocated time away from work to obtain sufficient sleep in order to report to work alert and maintain that alertness until they are in a safe environment (accommodation quarters, home, on the bus).   If this has not been possible, the employee then has an obligation to notify their employer that they are not alert, and therefore not fit for work.

What effect does working in a high fatigue state have on our behaviour in the real world?

  1. It controls our moods and inhibits our behaviour.
  2. It affects our abilities to show insights into our own performance
  3. It creates an inability to remember event sequences
  4. It affects our ability to communicate effectively
  5. It limits our ability to maintain an interest in outcomes
  6. We find it difficult to accurately assess risk
  7. We find it difficult to think laterally and be innovative
  8. Our abilities to keep track of events and update strategies is severely restricted


An effective FRMS (Fatigue & Risk Management Strategy) should at a minimum:

  • Be scientifically and legally defensible
  • Discriminate between work and non-work related fatigue
  • Be reported and auditable
  • Address all reasonably foreseeable events
  • Be appropriate to operator resource/risk profile

Explore strategies to minimise fatigue and improve the health of the workforce

with Professor Drew Dawson, Director, Appleton Institute, Central Queensland University at the Managing Fatigue & Health Outcomes conference on 26th & 27th February 2019 in Sydney.


Submitted by Ash Natesh

Ash Natesh

Ash is the Content Marketer at Criterion Conferences. Writing and sourcing content is all part of her day to day routine. She can’t stop drinking coffee, other than coffee her interests lie in Music, long walks amidst the mountains, Dance, Anime, Science Fiction and all things nerdy!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Other blog posts you may enjoy: