Year of grant:

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Project type:

Project title:
Møði hjá føroyskum fiskimonnum

Grant number:

Project manager:
Annbjørg á Høvdanum

Deildin fyri Arbeiðs- og Almannaheilsu

Other participants:
Pál Wihe, Wessel van Leeuveen og Fróði Debes.

Project period:

Grant from the FRC in DKK:

Project description:
Fatigue has been identified at a major cause or a contributing factor to human errors across industries. A study testing 261 Danish fishermen with the multidimensional fatigue inventory showed, that our of 5 fatigue factors, all men reported mental fatigue. Furthermore, when compared to the Danish population using a scale from 1 to 100, the fishermen's mean was 13 points higher than of middle-aged Danish persons.

From February to July 2014, the undersigned conducted a data collection with the Faroese Accident Insurance Council of all accidents among fishermen registered in a fourty-year period, 1972-2012. In total, 4002 accidents were registered, whereof 23% resulted in permanent disability and 97 in loss of life. The financial ramifications of such disabling accidents affect both the individuals concerned (the workers) and the Faroese society.

Although there are many uncontrollable factors in the fishing industry, appropriate measures should be in place in order to reduce the rates of accidents. Many improvements have been made to do this, however human physiology and psychology are the variables that have remained unchanged and are a big challenge when it comes to working irregular hours, which often result in fatigue.

Seafarers fatigue is a contributing factor in 16% of critical vessel accidents and 33% of personal injury accidents across all types of maritime operations. Therefore activities that can lead to reductions in fatigue and hence accidents should be prioritized.

In a recent review study, I and co-authors found that there is a dearth of studies related to fatigue in fishing. One study showed that 16% of the fishermen had experienced a fatigue related accident/incident, 44% said that they had worked to the point of exhaustion or collapse and 41% had fallen asleep at the wheel. The study supports the argument that fatigue should be considered a key health and safety-risk factor for fishermen and requires further investigation.

Work at sea might be particularly fatigue inducing due to several factors:
Working hours often take place during the circadian trough, forcing sleep to take place during less optimal hours of day.

1. Environmental conditions such as harsh weather conditions, rolling, vibrations and noise may result in difficulties obtaining sufficient rest and recuperation.
2. Being away from home and family for prolonged periods of time may result in psychological stress resulting in sleep problems.

The project aims to answer the following research questions:

1. What is the extent and severity of the influence of fatigue on cognitive functions amongst workers in the fishing fleet?
2. Which factors in fishermen’s working environment contribute to the development of fatigue.
3. Do fishermen themselves see fatigue as a safety challenge?
4. What is a fisherman's sleep quality like?
5. What actions can be taken to prevent fatigue in fishing?

To answer this, we will use The Computerised Mental Performance Assessment System (COMPASS): a fully computerised battery of neuropsychological test assessing cognitive performance. The tasks reflect an individualized Cognitive Performance Profile, and CATSYS will be used to measure manual motor speed and co-ordination. Actigraphy meassures acceleration and enables physical activity and sleep duration to be calculated. This will be used as an objective measure of sleep/wake periods and questionnaires will be used as a subjective measure.

The questionnaires used for this study will be Goldberg's General Health Questionnaire, the MFI-20 "Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory", as well as the "Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index", the "Karolinska Sleep Questionnaire" and the "Karolinska Sleepiness Index".

These will be filled in at the end of every shift. The participants will be tested on three occasions, 10 days before they go to sea, on the way out to sea and on the way back in. To control for learning effects, participants will be provided with the opportunity to have multiple pre-test sessions where they can become fully habituated to the measure and test situation and their learning curve has flattened to a stable plateau. They will be their own controls.

The knowledge gained from this study may help the authorities in their work with health and safety regulations and policy in fishing. The results will also be essential in the implementing of preventive measures to reduce causes for fatigue. The study will inform fishermen and ship-owners about the effects of fatigue, thus increase the industry's awareness of the problem. A higher awareness of fatigue should result in significantly fewer accidents, therefore less health-, material- and economic related losses to individuals, companies and society. Over all the results will be of great value for improving the working conditions and health and safety for fishermen.

The write up of paper articles will start at the end of the project. The following are potential journal titles:

1. "Sleep and fatigue in fishermen - the cognitive consequences"
2. "The effect of fishermen's different jobs and tasks onboard on the expression of fatigue and sleep"
3. "To what degree do environmental factors such as noise, vibrations and roll contribute to fatigue?"

Project status:

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