Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Calculating Risk in Fatigue Risk Management

Explaining why insurance companies have a vested interest in ensuring the process works!

Fatigue is a common symptom with a reported prevalence in the population ranging from 7% to approximately 45%. Fatigue is a diagnostically nonspecific and associated with many health conditions. Broadly defined, the symptoms are described as a feeling of weariness, tiredness or lack of energy. Some Individuals experience a desire to sleep and may experience sudden onset of drowsiness or sleep.

Fatigue has been said to raise the risk factor for an accident by a factor of 50. In a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which was partly funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is suggested that driving fatigued is responsible for up to 20% of all reported auto crashes. This figure is up from the suspected 7% formally recognized as the number.

Fatigue doesn't just raise an individual’s chance of having an accident, it has been linked to health issues and it has a bottom line effect on the cost of conducting business. In a study, conducted by Judith Ricci, ET. Al. (JOEM, Vol. 49, Number 1, January 2007), it is suggested that fatigue costs employers $136.4 billion annually in health related LPT, an excess of $101.0 billion compared to workers without fatigue.

Fatigue is a universal issue that knows no boundaries in business and occupation.  In the world of aviation, fatigue has been on the National Transportation Safety Board’s most wanted list since the 1990s. Since being place on the list, new programs have been put in place such as Fatigue Risk Management Systems approach to managing fatigue. But what does it mean to manage risk? Especially fatigue risk?  We’ll start with a brief description of what risk management is…

Risk management is the process by which a company systematically identity, measure and manage the various types of risk inherent within their operations. The fundamental objectives of a sound risk management system are to manage the organization’s exposure to potential loss and to maximize the operational productivity while avoiding accidents, incidents and loss.  So, why should an insurance company insist that a company have a fatigue risk management system in place?

Insurance companies make money by managing various types of risk for individuals, municipalities and corporate entities – the risk of dying too young, experiencing a loss due to an accident or natural disaster, and so on. Where there is risk there is uncertainty, and where there is uncertainty, there is exposure to loss. Using traditional risk management approaches, no company can truly eliminate all exposure to risk. The primary benefit of the risk management approach lies in the fact that the company does have the opportunity to identify and quantify their risk, set tolerances, set standards and manage identified risk based on those standards and expectations.

Since insurance companies insure against loss they must have a vested interest in the risk management system of any company that they insure. Based on the prevalence of fatigue in the work place and the associated potential for loss, they should pay particular attention to the Fatigue Risk Management System.  They should require systems to be in place and be provided proof the system is being used and supported.

In return for compliance of the insured companies, the insurer should offer incentives to aid the company in further developing more active and real-time intervention systems. The incentives do not have to be huge. They can come in the form of modest discounts, safety magazines, aid with fatigue risk management system audits, and accident forgiveness where applicable systems strategies were in evidently in place. These incentives should be a reward with a focus on fostering an environment of fatigue safety and engagement at all levels of the insured company. 

Note: Bob Novotney works as a Consultant with KOSTechnology, Inc. a producer of real-time fatigue monitoring systems.  To learn more about KOSTechnology, please visit their website at:

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