Hannah Lynch

A thematic analysis of fatigue management processes in shift work industries


Shift workers are likely to experience high levels of fatigue, particularly during night work, which is associated with increased accident risk. Therefore, managing shift workers’ fatigue is important, and a number of publications offer guidance on this. The aim for this project is to understand the fatigue management processes actually in place in various industries in the UK, and what considerations are made when making fatigue management decisions.

Individuals involved in shift work were interviewed on this topic, and a thematic analysis then carried out on the data. This revealed six core themes - monitoring work processes, balancing factors, attitudes which affect fatigue management, improving fatigue management, reactive fatigue management, and proactive management of fatigue. These outline ways in which fatigue is managed well, and how it may be managed poorly.

Themes also help identify where gaps may exist in fatigue management, and how they could be improved. The benefits of fostering better open communication within shift work organisations and providing training on sleep and fatigue risk are discussed. Shift schedules were also collected from participants and their associated fatigue risk modelled using the Fatigue Risk Index (FRI). This is useful to consider alongside the theme of Balancing Factors, as it demonstrates the range of outcomes that emerge from the various considerations made by different organisations.

Abstract from research paper by Hannah Lynch 
September 2020