New Technology Could Help Fatigued Offshore Workers Avoid Accidents

Credit: Justin Baetge/Texas A&M College of Engineering.
The assessment tools developed through the grant could also be used in areas outside of the oil and gas industry.

Fatigue is something most individuals deal with daily, with work culture, stress, and long hours all contributing. While some can still manage their jobs and remain safe when fatigued, workers in the offshore oil and gas industry need to be alert and ready for work in order to avoid accidents.

Oil and gas workers have long shifts and high physical and mental demands while working, causing them to have greater fatigue than average workers. If excessively sleepy or fatigued, they are 70% more likely to be involved in industrial accidents than alert, well-rested individuals. Fatigue was identified as a contributing factor in the BP Texas City Incident of 2005, as some operators had been working 12-hour shifts for as many as 29 consecutive days.

A team of researchers from Texas A&M University are using a wearable device and developing an interactive dashboard tool to help fatigued oil and gas workers avoid accidents and empower their front-line supervisors to make informed decisions about staffing. The interactive dashboard uses periodic self-reports of safety culture elements, such as the commitment to safety and performance management, submitted using digital devices.

The wearable devices will measure how long workers sleep and how well they sleep. This will be measured through total sleep time and sleep efficiency, which is the amount of time spent asleep vs. time spent in bed but awake. The wearable device will use different visualization techniques to provide this information to managers through an interactive dashboard to evaluate, measure, and promote offshore worker engagement and readiness.

“Offshore workers are often left to self-manage their fatigue. There is a critical need to integrate fatigue monitoring, reporting, and management practices into an organization’s existing safety culture strategies, such that stakeholders at all levels are empowered to make safer work choices,” said Ranjana Mehta, associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

The dashboard will allow managers to see how physiologically ready—rested and alert—workers are before their shifts and over the course of their time on the rigs offshore. Many work 20 consecutive days on the rig.

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