What are the Impacts of Fatigue at Sea?

There is a clear link between fatigue and accidents at sea. The more tired a maritime worker is, the more prone he or she is to errors in judgement and accidents. Accordingly, taking appropriate measures to avoid unnecessary fatigue benefits both the marine industry and its workers and will significantly reduce the number of accidents and injuries. The primary causes of fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Working and sleeping at inappropriate times, which interferes with the body’s circadian rhythm
  • Staying awake for long periods
  • Stress
  • Excessive workloads

Both quantity and quality of sleep matters. Generally, people need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Sleep is best obtained in a single block of time. Quality of sleep is also important. When a worker sleeps, it should be a deep and uninterrupted slumber. Environmental factors, such as excessive noise and vibrations, should be minimized in areas designated for sleep. In addition, temperature and humidity should also be regulated. The best temperature for sleep is in the range of 64 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Challenges of Marine Work

Other aspects of marine work add to the challenge of sleeping adequately. Marine workers can experience psychological and emotional factors that can disrupt sleep. Fear, boredom, and loneliness can arise due to the nature of the work and the fact that maritime workers are away from home for extended periods of time. Health issues, such as poor diet, lack of fitness, or illness can make workers more prone to fatigue. Often, people poorly judge their own level of fatigue, performance, and decision-making. Fatigue is known to:

  • Cause inattention and memory deficits
  • Cause difficulty in identifying and responding to stimuli
  • Create trouble with problem-solving

Administrative Controls to Reduce Fatigue

Marine work is often associated with long work shifts and irregular hours. Some of this is unavoidable while some is due to scheduling and other controllable factors. To ensure maritime workers are protected, administrative controls should be implemented, such as matching crew levels to the operational workload on the vessel and managing that workload effectively.

IMO Guidelines on Managing Fatigue in the Shipping Industry

The International Marine Organization (IMO) is an international agency established by the United Nations that provides guidance and direction on protecting the safety and security of shipping and reducing pollution. In 2018, the IMO approved guidelines on addressing fatigue, which included:

  • Setting minimum requirements for hours of work and rest
  • Planning and scheduling work duty to be distributed evenly, as well as sleep and work cycles
  • Managing workload assignments to avoid overburdening individuals or groups of workers

This means having enough crew on board to do anticipated tasks, and each crew member should have enough opportunities for rest and sleep. Additionally, work tasks should be distributed evenly to avoid overburdening individuals.

Some accidents are inevitable due to the negligent actions of an employer or coworker. If a maritime worker becomes injured due to the reckless behavior of another party, it is beneficial to speak to an experienced maritime injury lawyer to gain legal counsel.

Cape May Maritime Injury Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Help Workers Injured at Sea

If you are a maritime worker who was injured on the job due to fatigue, contact one of our experienced Cape May maritime injury lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. For a free consultation, call us at 888-999-1962 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cape May and Wildwood.