Research into Fatigue Risk Management, Orsted
Starting in 2016, and eventually spanning over a four-year period, Orsted Energy began working on the development of a fatigue risk management plan. This was in response to a proposed two week on, two weeks off shift system that was initially intended for the company’s Race Bank site in Grimsby, Lincolnshire; this was going to be Orsted’s first service operating vessel in the UK at the time. The purpose was to ascertain the effect this shift pattern would have on the Health, Safety, and Wellbeing of the technicians in this new working context for staff who would operate and maintain the windfarm.
This project required extensive data collection and analysis, due to there being a lack of pre-existing public research for the developing industries, so the University of Hull’s expertise was sought to help collate the necessary information. This is where the connection to the Centre for Human Factors (CFH) was made.
In partnership with Orsted Energy, psychologists at the Centre for Human Factors designed a research project to investigate the unique causes and consequences of fatigue associated with the challenging domain of offshore wind power operations. This was done with the aim of gaining insight into risks for wellbeing, safety, productivity, and longer-term health on the relevant Orsted employees.
The research has resulted in the expansion of the organisation’s fatigue risk management initiatives and protocols, with the likes of a new pillars model and health and wellbeing group being introduced, helping shape new educational and prevention strategies. This reflects significant and company-wide strides regarding fatigue understanding and support.
The outcome was ground-breaking, as no prior study within the wind industry had compared fatigue between employees working from a service operations vessel and those working from a crew transfer vessel on two different shift patterns.
Predominately, it was the shift pattern – the potential two week on, two weeks off system that required attention in terms of the impact on technicians and to support staffs’ health, wellbeing, and safety. The appropriate data needed to be gathered to provide an evidence base to plan appropriate actions. This is when the CFH’s services were called upon.
To evaluate the impact of the new shift system on the safety and wellbeing of the technicians and support staff – this study was split into two phases. This began with phase 1 interviews and analysis of employees’ experiences of fatigue, followed by phase 2 which was a sleep study with a psychometric diary tracking of: activities, perception of coping strategies, fatigue, and health related symptoms. Analysis of the results and the co-developed recommendations completed the study.
The findings and recommendations have led to the creation of a 4 Pillars Model by Orsted for fatigue risk management. This model is based on education and training, prevention, detection, and mitigation strategies. Despite the implementation of the recommendations still being in its early stages, Orsted’s windfarms in the East Coast Region have experienced significant knowledge growth regarding fatigue. This has manifested increased reports to line managers of pre-shift fatigue concerns and increased requests for fatigue recovery days. Furthermore, information from this study has improved the way they plan maintenance activities to reduce fatigue stressors, and they have developed much more robust risk assessment regarding fatigue.
Moreover, the Orsted ECH Health and Wellbeing Group has been devised, which has taken information from the study to help understand how they support employees with mental health and workplace stress. This is already bearing fruit through the introduction of a mobile phone app that allows technicians to confidentially report mental health and stress issues, resulting in confidential external psychological support being offered within hours rather than at the end of shift.
‘’The findings have had a major impact on identifying problems throughout the East Coast Region and producing the necessary solutions. In terms of psychological safety – technicians are reporting feeling safer as they are not as tired, so the comfort blanket feel around the changes is positive. Additionally, technicians’ productivity has drastically increased over time without them realising; altering the shift pattern to change what tasks are undertaken during the day and which at night appears to be one of the many things that has helped this.
The research project provided the essential data which was generally lacking within the industry – enabling key challenges to be identified, both from a ships and staffs’ point of view in relation to fatigue.
The Centre for Human Factors have been amazing and immense. All engagements were extremely energising and the passion for a people-centred approach was greatly felt. Any organisation with a strong view that they want to make a change will defiantly get on board if they are dealing with the CFH team.’’ – Matthew Lord (Operations Manager Hornsea 01, Orsted Energy)