Employee fatigue poses a real challenge to the energy industry and most companies lack the processes and regulations to effectively monitor and manage the issue, according to a sector poll.
Conducted by PennEnergy and commissioned by Kronos Inc., the survey of energy industry executives and front-line managers found the number of hours worked in a given day and the number of consecutive days are considered primary factors influencing employee fatigue in the oil, oil services and power sectors in the United States.
Field-based employees were ranked as being the most affected by fatigue, while transportation and production workers ranked second and third, respectively.
Control room and maintenance employees were ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, according to the poll.
“These results were interesting given the numerous industrial disasters that have been attributed to maintenance mistakes or errors by control room personnel,” the report reads.
Worker fatigue often leads to a number of “everyday issues,” with productivity loss, quality of work and minor accidents ranking highest among survey respondents, followed by absence, increased health care costs and major accidents.
Respondents believe fatigue causes a 10 per cent of lost productivity in the industry, and another 12 per cent of quality issues, according to the report.
Front-line managers rated the effects of fatigue on productivity and quality slightly higher than the average—at 14 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.
Related: Employee fatigue infographic
The results also show, however, that respondents from companies that have internal guidelines in place believe fewer production problems are caused by worker fatigue.
More than half of survey respondents reported their organizations don’t have, or they don’t know if their organizations have, internal guidelines for managing employee fatigue. On average, executives don’t consider internal fatigue-related guidelines to be important.
However, front-line managers consider such guidelines to be important, the results show.
“Companies that lack internal guidelines to manage fatigue estimate that fatigue costs them 50 per cent more per employee—US$569 compared to US$379—when compared to companies that do have fatigue-related guidelines,” the report reads.
And while nearly half of respondents consider the design of schedules to be a key element in a fatigue-management effort, fewer than one in 10 oil and gas organizations surveyed currently have a system with real-time capability of reporting potential fatigue, which combines work history with upcoming schedules.
“Finding and producing energy is a 24×7 business, naturally leading to high employee fatigue levels,” says Charlie DeWitt, vice-president of business development with Kronos Inc.
“This survey confirms that the industry recognizes the causes and impacts of fatigue. At Kronos, we offer a workforce management solution that helps energy companies manage fatigue with real-time visibility into labor, work-in-process, and equipment.
“Without such a system, fatigue can only be assessed retrospectively, limiting prevention. We believe that forward-thinking companies will increasingly embrace such technology.”
Roughly half of respondents indicated that an employee’s direct supervisor was responsible for fatigue-related monitoring, and another one-third said their organizations don’t have people in place to monitor fatigue.
“The survey shows a major disconnect concerning employee fatigue in the energy industry,” says Hilton Price, petroleum content editor with PennEnergy.
“Employee fatigue isn’t being thoroughly addressed by many energy companies but it can have a major impact on business, even affecting the bottom line. Managing employee fatigue is an area in need of urgent attention if employers want to ensure and improve productivity.”
Employee fatigue costs the average energy company roughly US$694,000 annually.
Click here to view the survey summary.
This article is part of the Productivity Success Centre, focused on boosting shop floor performance and cost efficiencies.