Manage and Mitigate Fatigue Risk

Highways HTMA

Look after your people and they will look after your business.  As health and wellbeing of employees is moving up the agenda towards the same level of safety within the highways maintenance industry, employers are increasingly aware of how wellbeing and safety are intrinsically linked.

Fatigue is becoming increasingly recognized as an operational risk.  The working hours and patterns for those working on the roads can be some of the toughest to manage for both employee and employer, and employers need to ensure they are complying with legal requirements.

Not to be confused with sleepiness (the tendency to fall asleep), fatigue is the body’s response to sleep loss or to prolonged physical or mental exertion.  It is a state of mental and/or physical exhaustion resulting from insufficient sleep, prolonged mental or physical work or extended periods of stress or anxiety.  It can arise as a result of excessive working time, hard physical labour or poorly designed shift patterns.

Factors causing fatigue can be work related, non-work related or a combination of both and can accumulate over time.  Fatigue can affect anyone and is a symptom, not a condition.  It can increase the risk of an incident occurring and has been found to be a significant cause of accidents, highlighting that fatigue must be managed like any other hazard.

Addressing the issue

HTMA has been part of a project group which was set up to look at working hours and the management of fatigue risk, specifically within highways maintenance activities such as traffic management, winter service and cyclical maintenance.

The work was initiated on the back of a report published by HSL, which the industry commissioned following advice from HSE, to enable fatigue risk management and fatigue indices to be produced.  The HSL report established a fatigue risk profile, provided fatigue indices and a risk management flowchart for the subsequent set of guidelines that have been produced.

Ian Robinson, Service Manager for Tarmac and Chair of HTMA Health Safety & Wellbeing Advisory Group said, “HTMA continues to work hard to raise awareness and provide solutions for the highway maintenance industry.   These guidance documents are the latest of the many examples of what HTMA delivers for the industry to improve standards. Looking after the wellbeing of our employees has become equally important as ensuring their safety.”

The purpose of the guidance is to help improve the management and mitigation of fatigue by all CDM duty holders from Client to Worker.  The published documents represent best practice within the industry.


Pat Sheehan, Associate Director SHEQ at Colas and Project Lead of the HTMA fatigue risk project commented, “Rather than concentrating on just one industry activity, to provide greater value it was decided that there should be guidance that focused on four key areas; traffic management, winter and cyclical maintenance, road markings and surfacing.  Through collaborating with other industry bodies, we have been able to capitalise on each group’s specialist skills and experience to deliver effective guidance.”

Sub-working groups were set up to produce the targeted guidance and HTMA took on the winter and cyclical maintenance sections and, in collaboration with the Traffic Management Contractors Association (TMCA), the traffic management section.  Engagement and input with other industry bodies included Road Surface Marking Association (RSMA) and Mineral Products Association (MPA) who were asked to focus on road markings and surfacing respectively.


Clear direction on control and mitigation of fatigue risk is given within the guidance documents.  Useful tools such as a fatigue risk matrix, process map, roles and responsibilities and a fatigue management plan framework are also included.
As part of the project, the working group has provided practical help in producing a tool box talk, fatigue awareness poster that can be used and they have collated information from various sources to signpost readers to further guidance that is available.

The guidance also recognises that within the realm of winter service, added complexity is introduced with the unpredictability for the need for gritting operations.  Normal practice means some staff are kept on standby for winter activities, however sometimes the severity, location, timing and duration of bad weather is unforeseeable.  These situations can give rise to emergencies when un-planned activity requires staff to be brought in at the last minute and will impact on fatigue levels.

For the successful implementation of a fatigue risk management system it is advantageous to have a positive organisational culture where there is trust between employees and management and where information about fatigue is openly reported.  Whilst this is likely to require concerted effort, the rewards for working towards a safer working environment with happier and healthier employees will be a more productive workforce for a stronger, sustainable business.

HTMA is pleased to have delivered a thorough piece of work on fatigue risk, an issue which affects employees and businesses across the industry, and encourages companies to adopt the guidance and utilise the various tools that have been made freely available from the HTMA website.

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