Get smart on fatigue risks

SEE THE SIGNS: Driving tired can be deadly, so it’s key to be able to know when you need a break.
SEE THE SIGNS: Driving tired can be deadly, so it’s key to be able to know when you need a break.

THE introduction of the new National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) from January next year signals a major development in the way operators apply for and administer Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM).

The regulator aims to support operators and drivers to take up the new rule book via an online coaching tool to help business, big and small, transition to a consistent national standard.

The portal will house extensive information on fatigue management and risk management, and include sample forms, tools and templates guiding applicants step-by-step to achieving AFM accreditation.

Underpinning the new framework is a new approach to assessing safety and fatigue risk.

From January next year, the "risk trading" approach will be used to assess the fatigue safety management systems of individual applications, templates and renewal requests from current participants to the AFM accreditation scheme.


Risk trading

In April last year, Australia's transport ministers approved a new approach to guide the regulator in assessing AFM applications from January 2013.

Currently, applicants develop their application based on worst-case risks on pre-determined outer limits. The new approach will be based on classifying and spreading (or trading) risk across seven key fatigue management principles.

From January next year, applicants will be able to create a fatigue safety management system tailored to their own business needs and submit it directly to the regulator for accreditation.

The new risk trading aims to be simpler, help shorten approval timeframes and give operators more flexibility in setting up hours to meet their specific transport challenges.


How is it expected to work?

Applicants plot their safety risk for common work tasks, such as regular trips, against seven fatigue management principles.

A risk range from low to high (developed in consultation with industry and government) will be set for each principle, clearly describing the parameters for each risk level.

Applicants will be able to see the risk rating for their particular work task and can derive an overall risk score for their entire safety system.

Applicants will then submit their risk score to the regulator online and should immediately know whether their proposed safety system is likely to be accredited, will require a more extensive review or would likely be rejected.

Applicants always have the option to amend their work tasks and trade risks across principles. For example, if an applicant is keen to retain a work task that is deemed high risk, they may have to ensure all other tasks sit in the low risk spectrum.


What are the "work-rest" fatigue management principles?

The seven principles are

grouped into three categories: work-related breaks, recovery breaks and reset breaks, as set out below:

 Work-related rest breaks (such as short rest breaks)

1. Ensure sufficient time in breaks during work periods.

2. The more frequent breaks from driving, the better.

 Recovery breaks (such as major rest breaks)

3. Ensure sufficient sleep: long breaks between long shifts should allow for at least seven hours sleep opportunity.

4. Ensure adequate sleep at night: sleep opportunities at night are preferred.

5. Long trips should not finish in the 00:00 to 06:00h period.

6. Work opportunities (e.g. work and rest breaks) should not be too long.

 Recovery breaks (such as long periods of rest or extended leave)

7. Prevent accumulation of fatigue with reset breaks of at least 30 hours (including two night periods, 00:00 - 06:00) between work sequences.

Applications that are well within the threshold limits for accreditation may not be "pre-approved", but will certainly be approved quickly.

Since the regulator will also use the same risk matrix to assess applications, the industry benchmark and preferred standards will be clear.

In many cases, applicants will have a good idea straight away of whether their proposed work and rest hours would be approved or accredited. Those applications outside the threshold limits may require a more extensive review of an applicant's whole safety management system, not just the proposed work and rest hours.

In those cases, or for fatigue safety management systems that become templates for specific industry sectors, a Fatigue Expert Reference Group established by the regulator will conduct these reviews.




If I'm currently AFM-accredited, do I have to apply again?

The new legislation recognises existing AFM approvals, so the changes to the AFM accreditation framework should not disadvantage those applicants who are currently AFM-accredited.

Where a participant can demonstrate their operations are safe, they should not lose any flexibility in terms of setting work and rest hours under the risk trading approach.


Next steps for 2012

The NHVR Project Office will continue to work with industry and government representatives to build the regulator's AFM capability, develop the draft risk trading scheme and producing a suite of tools and templates to assist operators and drivers to take up the new rule book with ease.

January-March 2012 - Consultation with fatigue management experts and industry representatives to review all current AFM accreditation schemes against the proposed cut-offs to determine high, medium and low risk levels for each of the seven fatigue management principles.

March 2012 - External scientific peer review of AFM risk trading scheme.

May 2012 - Submit AFM risk trading scheme to transport ministers for endorsement.

Topics:  fatigue industry news nhvr risk

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