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Case Study: FRM in Remote Desert Site

Background:

Baines Simmons Fatigue Risk Management Team (FRM) were commissioned by a global organisation’s Occupational Health Team to explore, for the first time, the sleep and fatigue of long-stay personnel living and working at a remote desert site.

The study assessed the sleep duration, sleep quality and fatigue of personnel working different shifts (day and night shifts), shift schedules (rotating or constant) and in different roles (including crane drivers, technicians, and catering workers).

Service used:

Scientific study of sleep and fatigue at a remote site, which included:

  • Study design, data collection, statistical analysis, report writing and presentation
  • For 3-4 weeks, 75 study participants wore research grade sleep and activity monitors (figure 1) and completed sleep diaries (figure 2)
  • Independent study and participants data were de-identified
  • Based on the results, recommendations on fatigue risk management, including schedule design, facilities and training were provided

Figure 1. MotionWatch8 sleep and activity monitor

Objectives:

The key questions of the study were:

  • How much sleep do personnel obtain onsite?
  • How much sleep do personnel obtain on the dayshift versus nightshift?
  • What is the recuperative value of the different weekly amounts of time off?
  • How much weekly time off is required to ensure personnel are well-rested?
  • How does fatigue accumulate from one week to the next, across a 4-week period?
  • What are the ‘hotspots’ in the schedule? Based on the findings, what recommendations can be made for reducing fatigue?

Solution:

Preparation

The FRM team worked with the Occupational Health Team to scope the study requirements, including specific schedules and roles for inclusion, the number of participants and project timelines. Two researchers then spent two weeks onsite in the desert to undertake study information sessions with the study participants.

Language and literacy

The study participants spoke a range of different languages, so all study materials were translated into ten languages, including Arabic and Hindi. A translator assisted with the study information sessions and helped the study participants to complete the study materials.

As some of the participants were not literate, a coloured sleep and fatigue diary (figure 2) was developed. The participants used a set of marker pens to shade cells to indicate what they were doing for every 1h period for a 3-4 weeks.

Figure 2. Example of a Hindi sleep and activity diary completed by a participant

Successful data collection

For 3 to 4 weeks the study participants wore a sleep and activity monitor and completed a sleep and activity diary. Seventy-five study participants successfully collected data.

Throughout the project, weekly online meetings were held between the Baines Simmons FRM Team and the Occupational Health Team. The meetings were an opportunity for the FRM Team to ensure the necessary support and guidance was in place, to present completed work and work collaboratively with the company to ensure the project remained on track and on time.

The FRM Team also worked with local contractors near the remote desert site to publicise the study in their organisation to recruit volunteers. The contractors also provided data on the shift schedules worked by participants.

Outcome:

The study was documented in a detailed report, describing the study objectives, methods, statistical analysis results, recommendations for fatigue management and next steps. The recommendations considered work schedule design, promoting, and providing facilities for napping in the afternoon when the temperature is high.

Occupational Health held an onsite thank you ceremony, including feedback on the study results, for the study participants.