Events, Safety, Standards & Regulation, Workforce

Managing fatigue vital part of rail industry

Metro Trains’ risk and human factors advisor Deborah Loats is a shining example of how young, ambitious employees are being given the opportunity and support to make a real difference in the rail industry.

Loats recently won the Safety Initiative by a Young Rail Employee (Under-30) category at the 2022 RISSB Rail Safety Awards, for spearheading a business-wide change in understanding and managing fatigue.

The event recognises and celebrates safety achievements in the rail industry, promote diversity, excellence and innovation for the betterment of rail. 

Human Factors brings together principles from cognitive and health psychology, ergonomics and engineering, with a focus on emphasising that people are part of a system, so that system needs to take into account their limitations, needs, abilities and goals, if it’s going to be safe and effective.

Metro’s risk and human factors team had a goal, and that was to develop an innovative way to improve how Metro manages fatigue, to ensure everyone is at their best to work safely and effectively.

It is critical at Metro Trains with 6700 employees working in a variety of different divisions with ever-changing tasks and work conditions.

Through working groups, Loats and her team listened to the individual experiences and feedback from each division. Then, by developing business-wide requirements, divisions could apply a more targeted risk-based approach, to meaningfully improve their processes to reduce risks.

Nominated by her supportive manager, Fiona Kenvyn, the pair and their team have made groundbreaking changes to a major function at Metro, helping to develop a program that has positive impacts on health and wellbeing.

“We’re doing something here that a lot of rail organisations have found challenging – shifting people away from just focusing on working hours to looking at fatigue as a credible business risk,” Kenvyn said.

“It’s a game-changer.  We still have a long way to go, but this piece of work creates the framework for success, and we have the commitment from our safety leaders to make it happen.”

Loats said it was exciting to see the industry embrace the idea that it needs to be doing more when it comes to managing the risks around fatigue.

“Our rail workers have to navigate environments that really put pressure on their performance: from demanding workloads, shift work and irregular working hours to managing errors that may arise,” she said.