Wearable Technology Could Aid in Fatigue Management

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Published Feb 11, 2020 5:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Shipowners' Club is partnering with Sleep and Fatigue Research Ltd to see if studies involving wearable technology to monitor sleep patterns could aid in fatigue management at sea.

The Club says that it has identified sleepiness and long-term fatigue as major factors in accidents at sea. It aims to work with Sleep and Fatigue Research Ltd to determine if wearable technology is suitable for the marine environment and able to mitigate the risks that fatigue poses to error rates, accident rates, health and staff retention.

Sleep and Fatigue Research Ltd, has worked with industries such as aviation, road transportation, the emergency services and medical services. CEO Jason Eden was a pilot and safety manager in the U..K’s Royal Air Force (RAF), and he was a member of the RAF’s Fatigue Risk Management Working Group.

His company uses consumer wearables, scientifically validated fatigue algorithms, a mobile app and management software to understand how fatigue arises and to improve individuals’ understanding of their own fatigue level and how to improve it. 

The Club cites research that indicates that workers who have less than five hours sleep a night are more than three times as likely to be involved in an accident than those that have more. After 17 hours of being awake, performance can be reduced to the same extent as if someone were over the drink-driving limit. Additionally, a fatigued person can not necessarily assess whether their performance is impaired.

A lack of sleep has also been implicated in health issues such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, anxiety and depression. Eden cites research that indicates that people who sleep less than six hours a night are 50 percent more likely to die of heart disease, 15 percent more likely to die from a stroke and 12 percent more likely to die before 65 from any cause. 

The Club says split shifts and long shifts, especially at night, can result in higher levels of fatigue as can shifts starting before 07:00. 

Eden's personal experience

Eden became interested in fatigue after an incident at the start of his flying career when he was a navigator on a maritime patrol aircraft. At 8pm one evening after a full day's work, he was told that a colleague had fallen ill and he would have to replace him on a flight later that night. He tried but was unable to sleep before reporting for duty at midnight. 

After three hours of planning, the flight took-off in the early of the morning and continued for nearly 13 hours. On the return from the operating area, Eden awoke and noticed that all 13 crewmembers, including pilots, were also asleep - he had no idea for how long.